LIBERTY — Liberty Parks and Recreation began hosting a 74-team youth baseball tournament on Friday, June 5, the first major sports tournament in the area since sports play around the country halted in mid-March as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Midwest Global State tournament, an event organized by KC Sports, is being held at Capitol Federal Sports Complex, 2200 Missouri Highway 210, Liberty. LPR reopened the complex June 1 as Clay County entered Step 2 of the county public health center’s COVID-19 recovery phased-in plan.
BJ Staab, director of LPR, said Clay County Public Health Center gave guidelines for sports like baseball and softball to return while contact sports such as basketball, football and soccer are still not allowed in this phase.
Staab said teams have started practicing at the complex in the evenings this week. LPR staff have asked parents to not attend these sessions and leave the complex for the duration of those practices.
He said tournaments will be held on the weekend with safety procedures outlined for tournament organizers and participants. LPR’s website lists tournaments scheduled for each weekend through the end of July.
His staff removed or blocked off bleachers throughout the complex. Tournament spectators are asked to bring their own seating and to maintain 6 feet of distance between other groups whenever possible.
LPR doesn’t list any rules in its safety procedures requiring tournament participants to undergo temperature checks. The list does recommend individuals stay home if they are sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. It also states an individual should state home if that person or a member of their family traveled in the last 14 days to restricted travel locations listed by the CDC.
The safety procedures require teams to provide their own anti-bacterial wipes and teams must wipe down dugouts before, during and after games. Only six people are allowed in a dugout at once.
Players are not allowed to perform handshakes or high fives during competition and also need to have their own water bottle/coolers as teams are not permitted to have a shared water cooler.
Concessions stands will be open during weekend tournaments. Concessions employees are required to wear gloves as they prepare and serve food. LPR states that surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized regularly. Customers will be asked to designate one person to approach the concession stand for group orders to help maintain social distancing. Staff will also not refill any water bottles at the concession stands.
Staab said although LPR will continue partnering with baseball and softball organizers for tournament play, the department’s summer baseball leagues remain canceled. He decided along with his staff that the recovery timeline was too short to give participants the quality experience they had come to expect.
“We really had to step back and say, ‘OK, can we provide the experience that we typically provide for what would be a month,” Staab said. “You’ve got to give them time to practice and at least meet their coach before you just start playing games.”
Staab said his department opted for offering more camps and non-traditional leagues, starting with speed and agility camps beginning Monday, June 8.
LPR will also host a baseball all-star week July 28-30 at Capitol Federal Sports Complex for boys and girls 14 and under. Teams will compete in seven age divisions and a skills competition will be held on Tuesday, July 28.
“We’re really just gauging interest because there’s some families and participants that don’t feel comfortable regardless,” Staab said. “But then there’s some that do want to play something still. So we’re really just trying to work to see what we can provide that meets those needs.”