Summer baseball in the West Valley has returned, albeit under strict and unprecedented safety and health protocols.
The Southwest Wood Bat Classics organization, directed by Ryan Dyer, runs high school-aged club tournaments and showcase events. It has already hosted four tournaments this summer, including several at the Goodyear Ballpark complex.
The Southwest Wood Bat Classics hosted tournaments at Goodyear Ballpark from June 5-8 and June 26-29. Dyer is also planning to host a tournament Aug. 21-23 at the Peoria Sports Complex.
The return to baseball has been challenging to prepare for, especially as COVID-19 numbers in Arizona have recently skyrocketed. But Dyer said he is doing all he can to ensure a baseball-filled summer for players.
His tournaments require coaches and parents to wear face masks at all times. Players must wear masks upon arrival but are permitted to take them off during games.
Dyer has also implemented “staggered start times” to games as a way to ensure the least amount of people are inside the complex. At Goodyear Ballpark, just two of the four fields were used at a time. After games, fields and dugouts were cleaned and sanitized.
Gum and sunflower seeds are prohibited, per a sign entering the Goodyear fields. It also urges guests to “Please practice social distancing.”
Since they’re limited to just two fields at a time, crowd sizes have dwindled, too, Dyer said, with roughly 10-20 fans on each team’s side consisting of immediate family members.
“It’s been very difficult,” Dyer said of keeping up with the latest information from health officials. “It changes daily and sometimes hourly of the things that are expected and the protocols that are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the powers that be.
“It’s something I keep my eye on hourly to see if there are any changes in how the county, city or state is handling and recommending us to deal with these situations.”
Dyer said he’s been notified of players and coaches who are registered in upcoming tournaments who have tested positive. In that scenario, the team then removes itself from the upcoming tournament.
But Dyer said he wants to continue the competitions.
“It’s a challenging question to answer because obviously there’s a lot of concern and fear as numbers spike. The obvious question is, ‘Why are we still playing?’ The answer is that kids want to be out there,” he said.
“It’s been such a special experience, especially having it taken away the way it was from everybody. The enthusiasm, the smile on everybody’s faces, from the parents to the kids, it’s just been something I’ve never seen.”
The Southwest Wood Bat Classics safety measures include, according to tournament director Ryan Dyer:
• Only 12-20 fans are allowed per game. Most fans preregister that they’re coming and provide contact information for contact tracing.
• Teams enter the facility 40 minutes before game time and are escorted in via a safety corridor to minimize cross contamination.
• Masks are required upon entry and exit by players.
• Parents and coaches are required to wear masks at all times.
• Fans enter the facility no more than 20 minutes before game time after the fields have been cleared out and sanitized.
• Pregame meetings between coaches and umpires are prohibited.
• Mound visits by coaches to speak to their pitcher are limited.
• Baseballs are sanitized between innings.
• Sunflower seeds and gum are prohibited, as is spitting.
• Postgame handshakes between the two teams are prohibited. Instead, players tip their caps from their dugouts toward the other team.
• Teams and fans have five minutes at the conclusion of the games to exit the facility.