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The big question: Will there be sports?

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

We’ve been inside for a while now. While the initial novelty of doing schoolwork or regular work from home was interesting at first … that thrill is now gone.

 

Sports, like many other aspects of our lives, are currently in limbo. The question of when or if some teams will ever get the chance to play is asked at least twice each day, sometimes more. We simply don’t know the answers right now and we may not for some time to come still.

 

One question was officially answered Thursday when the Virginia High School League released a statement that all 2019-20 spring sports have now officially been canceled. Originally the VHSL put all sports on hold to give them time to evaluate the entirety of the situation.

 

The hope, in the end, was to at the very least be able to hold some type of summer tournament setup that would allow the players, especially the graduating seniors, one last chance to play in their hometown school colors. The folks in charge really wanted to do something for those seniors, but in the end, it simply can’t happen. There are just too many question marks still out there.

 

For those seniors we can only say thank you for all the years of hard work and dedication. In Pulaski County, we always say, “Once a Cougar, always a Cougar.” That means more today than it did before all this began. We certainly wish all of those seniors the best moving forward and look forward to seeing the ones that will play at the next level represent Pulaski County again on the fields and courts.

 

Another big question was Pulaski County Recreation League sports set for spring and summer action. Most of us were looking forward to baseball, softball and soccer teams taking the field to provide us with some form of entertainment.

 

That hope was shot down a few short weeks ago when the announcement came down that those seasons were also canceled. Those who have already paid for the registration will be credited that amount for a future season or they can contact Shay Dunnigan at the rec department for more information.

 

Randolph Park, or at least part of it, is open now. The walking trails and the walking track is available during regular hours, but the baseball, softball and soccer fields are now closed. Other walking trails in Pulaski and Dublin are also open now, but in all cases social distancing should continue to be observed.

 

The next big question will be answered as soon as possible, but for obvious reasons, the hope is to hold off as long as possible if that means having a season. Every day someone wants to know if the Pulaski Yankees will take the field this year.

 

The only answer we can give right now is that the season is still scheduled to begin June 22 with a two-game home series against the Bristol Pirates. First pitch this season is set for 6:30 p.m. The Yankees are scheduled to follow that up with a three-game series against the Elizabethton Twins starting Wednesday, June 24. They are set to hit the road for the first time Sunday, June 28, when they expect to travel to Bluefield.

 

At this time the hope is to still play the entire 68-game schedule plus any potential playoff games. The goal, per a release from the team, is for all Minor League teams to play as many games as possible once it is safe to do so.

 

As we get closer to that June 22 date more information will be available, if not sooner. In the end, the answer will come and everyone will either enjoy the full season as we hope to or we’ll all adjust and enjoy what we can. Should things go really bad, decisions will be made about that as well. All we can do is hope for the best and see how it all plays out.

 

Finally, the next big question out there concerns fall sports.

 

At the most recent meeting of the Pulaski County School Board, it was mentioned that things are still in a state of upheaval and no one knows how things are going to play out. Yes, that could eventually mean that things start going back to normal and we start seeing a return to our regularly scheduled lives.

 

It could also, unfortunately, mean something no one wants to believe could come true. Fall sports for the rec league, middle school, high school, college and pro levels could be dramatically affected or even outright canceled.

 

Rec, middle school and high school sports are the three that are in the most danger. Playing those sports without fans, which is something college and pro sports may be able to get away with, is almost unthinkable for a lot of reasons.

 

First, parents of the younger students are going to be there. They drive the players to and from the games. They provide supervision. They are the support system for the rec and middle school levels, for the most part. High school may be able to do some things without parents, but that takes away so many memories that we can never get back.

 

The reason college and pro teams could play without fans is the fact that they could make money off the television feeds and advertising. High school and lower level sports depend on ticket sales. If 5,000 people show up to a high school football game and each buys a $6 ticket, that’s $30,000. You still have to pay officials and other expenses, but paying that out of $30,000 is a lot easier than paying it out of nothing.

 

Football normally has five home games. In other words, if 5,000 fans show up and buy a $6 ticket at all five home football games, the school could see $150,000 go into the bank. If Scott Vest is reading this and could interject here, that is NOT how much is normally comes in, but this is just an example.

 

That $150,000 would then go toward supporting and funding all of the athletic teams and other activities at the school throughout the year. Uniforms cost money. Footballs, baseballs, soccer balls and softballs cost money. Paying for officials and to have the fields lined off costs money. It all adds up.

 

In the end, the school will take their direction from the VHSL, who will, in turn, take their direction from the governor, just like they did in spring sports. We should all pray that this ends before then, but we should also be aware that it is a possibility.

 

Either way, coaches at the schools are sending home workouts to their athletes and expecting them to be done. Coaches still communicate with the players and each other and plans are being made. Given the chance, they will take the field with their players and give it all they’ve got for the Cougar Nation.

 

Keep your fingers crossed.

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