Play Ball! Off and Running in Salt Lake City!

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

The Utah Adult Baseball League begins their season May 26th. In preparation for the beginning of their MSBL season, they played an exhibition game this past Thursday, May 21st to sample social distancing and safety guidelines for local officials and ensure that all is well, while promoting outdoor baseball activity.  The game and the rules set forth were a rousing success and also served as a game that created a template for Utah summer youth leagues to follow.

“It was all good,” said League President Gary Bowman.  “The other area youth league officials were there and it appears they will be adopting our regulations to carry on themselves.  The umpire association also liked how the ‘behind the pitcher’s mound’ concept worked, as they rotated positioning all game to get a feel for it.  It worked very nicely.”

Bowman explained how the pre-game screening progressed.  “We scanned every player’s temperature immediately when they got out of their car and came to the table set up near the field.  With the social distancing of six feet we were making sure that if they had a temperature above the prescribed 100.4, we would send them back before they became involved with any interaction that would cause us to have to cancel the game.  Fortunately, that wasn’t an issue as everyone was under the guidelines.”

How do you keep the players apart?  “That was easy, as they sat in the bleachers apart from one another, they brought lawn chairs or just stood or sat along the fence, all at least six feet apart.  The on-deck batter took his usual spot and the batter ‘in the hole’ came into the dugout and was the only one in there so that he could keep the game moving at its normal pace. 

The entire evening worked really well and the players totally understood.  There was no bitching or complaining.  Honestly, after a few innings nobody noticed that anything was any different.  The only thing I can do differently is get there a little earlier and give myself enough time to set up tables to check in, tape up signs and things like that.  Nothing major at all.  We were playing baseball!”

Below are some steps the Utah Adult Baseball League has adopted:

We will have tables set up at each field for form signing and temperature reading

We will have 6′ distancing markings on the ground around the tables

We will supply forms to sign for each player and official (sample below)

We will supply pens

We will supply alcohol wipes

We will wipe pens down after each and every use

We will have non-contact thermometers at each field

Games have been moved from 30 minutes to one hour between game times

We will have signs posted reminding the few fans of the 6′ distancing

Dugouts will be closed. Players will stay outside the field. Keeping 6′ distancing

Home plate umpire moved to behind the pitcher’s mound

Players will not share equipment

First base runner will not be allowed to steal. He must stay on the base until the pitcher releases the ball. This will keep 6′ distance from the first baseman and the runner as he will not need to be held on first base

Mound meetings will be at a 6′ distance with the catcher and or coach

No mound meetings with the infield.

Once games are over, player will leave the field. No shaking or high fives at home plate. A simple wave will suffice

Here is the sample form each play must sign before each game:

Salt Lake City television station KUTV was on hand to cover the game.  Here is the transcript from their broadcast:

Two teams with the Utah Adult Amateur League, an adult baseball league has been working with the county at picking a safe time and place to test new rules and safety guidelines that could potentially be replicated by leagues of all ages as the state continues to transition into lower risk levels.

“This bag that I have with baseballs and bats has not seen the light of day for six months” says player Bob Charleson.

The league was supposed to start in April, yet Thursday was the first time they could get out and scrimmage. Six-foot distancing signs taped around the field were a reminder to everyone things will be different, but the players tried to keep the game as normal as they could.

“I’ll start the trash talk off a little lighthearted but as the season progresses it might get a little more interesting” Charleson says with a laugh.

Before hitting the field, every player got a temperature check and had to sign a symptom assessment form.

“We’re starting to see the barn doors open a little more and getting a lot more freedom to be able to do what we love to do” Charleson says.

Roughly 400 players play in the league, which is run by Gary Bowman. Only players from two teams showed up Thursday along with a few family and friends and managers from other teams in the league.

“It’s been something it’s a learning curve, a big learning curve” Bowman says. Bowman made changes like taking everyone out of the dugout expect for the on-deck batter.

To allow for better distancing, the umpire now stands behind the pitcher instead of a just foot behind the catcher.

“The stress from the virus, some of them not working, you’ve got to relieve it somehow, you’ve got to have something” Bowman says.

For weeks Bowman says he has been working with Salt Lake County officials to get a permit to play, which is something that would normally happen anyway. But, proving to the county the league can play by the book is important if other leagues are to follow the playbook Bowman is rewriting.

“We might see something we’re missing and say hey let’s adjust this and let’s move this and our whole thing is to get it so everybody can get on the field, everybody needs to play ball” Bowman says.

The bleachers had six-foot distancing signs on them as well for fans.

Below is the link to the accompanying KUTV video: