LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A youth baseball tournament is underway amid rising Coronavirus cases in Louisiana.
The tournament, one of the nation’s largest state-sponsored baseball events, takes place over four weeks at 3 different complexes, each with multiple fields. The prestigious high school baseball tournaments will call Southwest Louisiana home for the next four years, making the National Championship tournaments the largest single sporting event in the history of Southwest Louisiana.
The National Championship will utilize 3 fields at McMurry Park, and also the fields at Barbe High School, Sam Houston High School, Legion Field and the Joe Miller Ballpark on the campus of McNeese State University.
“The event has been hosted in Houston for the past three years and Visit Lake Charles outdueled Las Vegas and Nashville for the right to host over the next four years,” said Eric Zartler, Sales Director at Visit Lake Charles.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise across the state, parents like Marcus Jennings are just surprised the event is even happening at all.
“My wife and I were expecting all the way up until yesterday that they might not be able to participate in this tournament,” said Jennings. We’re trying to be as safe as we can but we were a little concerned.”
Jennings said he weighed all the factors before letting his son play and believes he made the right decision.
“We put our hands on anything we can as far as reading about precautions the tournament is taking and what we can do as a family,” Jennings said. “I have my wipes for the airplane down to the mask.”
Under Governor John Bel Edwards’s order, youth recreational sports are still allowed to take place. As for the tournament, event organizers say they’re working with the city to make sure safety comes first.
Dugouts will be cleaned before and after each game.
All facilities chosen for the tournament usually set 3,000 to 4,000 spectators but organizers are only expecting 300 spectators.
Staff will wear face masks
“We anticipate there will be 2-300 people between parents, friends, spectators, scouts, and college coaches and we will ask all of them to physically distance themselves and wear face masks,” said Kyle Edmiston, President & CEO of Visit Lake Charles.
Edmiston says some of the safety protocols for the tournament include:
- Dugouts will be cleaned before and after each game.
- All facilities chosen for the tournament usually seat 3,000 to 4,000 spectators but organizers are only expecting 300 spectators
- Staff will wear face masks, signs will be placed throughout the field to encourage spectators to wear masks
- Dugouts will be separated and umpires will set up six feet behind home plate and the pitcher’s mound
With a lot of uncertainty up until this point, Jeremy Booth, Program 15 founder and CEO/President of Baseball Operations for NBFSS says he’s just thankful to be able to restore a little bit of normalcy to the field...something he says the players need right now.
”These kids need to play... there are mental aspects to this,” said Booth. “They need to be outside and not feel like the world is crashing on us...especially in our sport, it’s about as social distancing as it gets.”
Organizers say each tournament will have gate attendants monitoring spectators and social distancing. Families will be allowed to sit together. Concessions and water fountains will not be available.
The tournament will recur weekly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays beginning June 30 until July 25th. The Class of 2021 will play July 7 – 12, the Class of 2022 will be July 21 – 26, the Class of 2023 will be July 14 – 19 and the Class of 2024 will kick off the event on June 30 – July 5.
Here’s What Can Operate at 50% Capacity (parties must still maintain at least 6 feet of distance):
- Solo and non-contact sports
- Playgrounds, outdoor play centers (children must be accompanied by an adult)
- Barbershops, beauty shops, and nail salons
- Museums, zoos, and aquariums (no tactile exhibits)
- Gyms and fitness centers
- Shopping Malls (including food courts, following restaurant guidance)
- Restaurants, coffee shops, and cafés
- Bars and breweries with LDH food permits
- Movie theaters
- Casinos and video poker parlors
- Racetracks (not open to spectators)
- Day spas, tattoo shops (under strict guidance from LDH), massage establishments, and estheticians (under strict guidance from the Cosmetology Board)
- Swimming pools (controlled recreational swimming)
- Pool halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks (children must be accompanied by an adult)
- Event centers and wedding venues