HEISER: On first official day of summer, baseball should return to York County sandlots
- The Central and Susquehanna baseball leagues aim to start on June 20.
- The Central League plans a 24-game regular season.
- The Susquehanna League is hoping for a 28-game regular season.
- The Central League again plans to host the Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament.
Let's play ball!
In less than two weeks, baseball should finally be back in York County.
It was certainly a long time coming.
By now, everyone knows that the COVID-19 pandemic put the sports world on hiatus. That includes the area adult baseball leagues, which were supposed to start in early May.
Locally, we have slowly seen the return of some sports activities, most notably dirt-track racing, as we've advanced through the red and yellow phases of the state's recovery program.
Friday, York County enters the green phase. Just eight days later, on Saturday, June 20, the Central League and Susquehanna League expect to start their delayed adult baseball seasons.
It seems appropriate that the summer game will return locally on the first official day of summer.
Of course, this is a fluid situation, but if everything goes as planned, the two local sandlot leagues will be able to present two delayed, but meaningful seasons.
Central League plans: The Central League, according to league president Mark Skehan, is hoping to have a 24-game regular season followed by two rounds of playoffs in late August — a best-of-three semifinal round and a best-five championship series. The league, which has nine teams this season with the addition of Mechanicsburg, originally had a 32-game regular-season schedule.
The Central League also plans to again play host to the annual Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament over Labor Day weekend.
Skehan, who called the new scheduling arrangement a "cut-and-paste job," also said the league may add another tournament over the Fourth of July weekend.
Susquehanna League plans: The eight-team Susquehanna League is not quite as definite about its scheduling plans, with a league meeting set for Wednesday that will likely firm things up.
League president Jeff Barkdoll, however, is still hoping a full, but much-condensed, 28-game regular-season schedule may be possible.
When asked if he thought the league's players would be ready for such a busy stretch by the proposed June 20 openers, Barkdoll said: "I guess we’ll find out. A lot of guys are doing things themselves. Sometimes, though, baseball is like riding a bike. You don't forget how to do it."
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Barkdoll also said some league playoffs are likely once the regular season ends in mid-August, although the form is still to be determined.
County title series unlikely: One event that likely won't be held this summer, however, is a York County Championship Series between the two leagues.
Last year's event ended with some bad blood between the two leagues when Central League champion Stoverstown accused Susquehanna League champion East Prospect of using a player that the Tigers feel was ineligible. East Prospect won the series, but Central League officials wanted the Pistons to vacate the crown. East Prospect refused.
Given that background, it appears unlikely the two sides could reach an agreement for a 2020 county titles series. Additionally, there are no open weekends on the Central League schedule in August or early September when the county series could be played.
Both league presidents indicated they'll likely revisit the future return of the county title series after the 2020 season concludes.
A different look and feel: In the meantime, however, both Skehan and Barkdoll are ready to finally get the 2020 seasons started, although both realize the games will have a different look and feel in the COVID-19 era.
Both leagues say they are committed to abiding by the safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and state health organizations, including those on social distancing and sharing equipment.
Fans should be allowed to attend games, but will be encouraged to spread out.
"Common sense is the word of day," Skehan said. "Don’t crowd everybody. ... The ball field is pretty big place. Don’t be on top of each other."
Skehan said the individual Central League teams will be responsible for getting folks at the game to act responsibly. Barkdoll, meanwhile, said the SL will issue guidelines to league teams on what is expected of them.
Now that things are finally starting to fall into place, the leagues will just need Mother Nature to cooperate during what shapes up to be a very busy 2 1/2 months.
"We certainly hope we don’t have a lot of rain," Skehan said. "If we get a week of rain, it will throw the schedule back into the soup again, but we're cautiously optimistic we can move forward and play some baseball."
That's a sentiment that should bring smiles to the faces of baseball fans across York County.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.