Despite numerous challenges, baseball has returned to Cloverdale ball parks.
After missing the season last year, Matthew Rudolfs said he’s happy to see the kids take the field again.
“It’s nice to be back. It’s been a long, weird year,” said Rudolfs, head coach for the Cloverdale Minor Baseball Association’s (CMBA) Mosquito Team #6. “It’s been about exactly a year since our season got cancelled (in 2o20).”
Rudolfs said the kids only have a “practice league” going right now with no games scheduled.
“We’re hoping that Bonnie Henry’s going to move things along, and open up for games, hopefully in May.”
Rudolfs said even with the restrictions, he sees a silver-lining in their current practice-only scenario.
“It allows us to knock off the rust,” he explained. “There’s a large difference between some of the kids. Some of them have practiced privately and kept up with some skills. But some of these kids, the last time they played, was the first year of tadpole—two years ago.”
He said because of the gap, it’s going to take a lot of work—and time—to get the kids up to the same level. But, he added, the kids seem to be up to the task as everyone is excited to be back on the diamond.
John Braaten, vice-president of CMBA, said he’s encouraged to see registration numbers hovering at near normal levels.
“We had about 750 kids registered last year,” said Braaten, noting numbers for this year were shaping up to be about the same. “Given the size of the community, it’s remarkable.”
He said the CMBA has about 700 kids registered right now and Braaten expects another 50 or so to sign up by the beginning of April.
Braaten, who is also a coach for one of the association’s peewee AA teams, said even with the return, and the high registration numbers, there are challenges.
He said those challenges include keeping up with health protocols and dealing with an all-out ban on parents watching their kids play.
“The other big thing now is, technically, there are no spectators [allowed] either.”
Braaten admits the no spectator rule is basically unenforceable and he agreed it would be very difficult to tell random strangers they weren’t allowed to walk through a public park or that they couldn’t stop to watch.
“We do contact tracing at every practice right now,” explained Braaten. “We do a COVID check to make sure no one has any symptoms. And we keep that on record for 30 days past every practice.”
Braaten concedes coaches and teams have been put in difficult positions by Baseball BC and ViaSport for being asked to implement measures that can cause conflict with strangers in the open air in public parks.
“We just do our best,” said Braaten. “If we see somebody walk up, [we say], ‘hey, do you have a son or daughter on the team?’ Yes-No. ‘Hey, do you mind filling this out?’ Some of them will tell you where to go and others will be more than happy to be compliant, provide their name and phone number.”
Even with all the extra health-related issues tossed at the CMBA, Braaten said the season has started well.
He’s also looking forward to getting Blastball (2016), T-Ball (2015), and Super-T (2014) up and running. Registration is still open for the 2021 season for the three age groups. Their season is set to start around the first weekend in April.
“They usually start a couple of weeks later than everyone else,” explained Braaten. “We usually get a push of registrations for the younger kids after spring break. So we leave that open a little longer.”
Braaten said those younger divisions play six-on-six baseball.
“We’ve changed our program model to try to keep more kids interested and engaged. We hope we get a higher retention of players.”
Braaten said the younger teams have about eight kids per squad and when kids aren’t playing on the field, they will be doing skills training with other coaches off the field.
“They are always doing something,” said Braaten. “The idea is to continue along with skill development.”
Teams in Tadpole (2012-2013), Mosquito (2010-2011), Peewee (2008-2009), Bantam (2006-2007), and Midget (2003-2005) have already begun practices and all have waitlists.
Braaten also said CMBA’s Challenger division will be up and running this year too. He said registration is always open—and it’s free.
Challenger is for “children with cognitive or physical disabilities to enjoy the thrill of playing baseball, being part of a team, developing physical and social skills, plus all the benefits of participation in baseball at a level structured to their abilities,” reads the CMBA website.
“We’ve already got the OK from Baseball BC that you’re allowed to have the one buddy with each athlete at all times,” noted Braaten. “We’re allowed to do that, to get them out as well.”
Challenger baseball starts approximately in May, but it’s weather dependent.
“Some of the kids are in wheelchairs. Some have crutches. It really depends on how firm the ground is,” explained Braaten. “So it’s usually a later start.”
He said Challenger baseball runs until the late fall as they keep it running as long as they can.
“We’re just doing our best to get kids outside again,” added Braaten. “It’s tough for any sport, I think, to have two years off. So we’re just happy with where we’re going, in regards to kids coming back. And we’ll just do our best to keep everybody safe and get them outside and off the screens and stuff like that.”
For more information on Cloverdale baseball or registration, visit the CMBA website.