Sen Toomey discusses possible return of youth sports with various experts

Southwest representative from Eastbank Little League huddles together after qualifying for the 2019 Little League World Series Championship at Lamade Stadium in Williamsport last summer. Thursday morning Little League President Stephen Keener met with Senator Pat Toomey and several different experts about the return of youth baseball and softball to the country.

Williamsport – A group of some of the most important names in baseball met to discuss the future of youth sports Thursday and gave a response many across the country have been waiting to hear. Sort of.

Little League's Best Practices can be found in the link below: 

Best Practices on Organizing, Playing, And Watching Little League® Baseball and Softball During the Coronavirus Pandemic

We are nearing a return to youth sports, namely Little League Baseball and Softball, but it’s still going to take some patience. Little League President Stephen Keener met for a roundtable discussion about the eventual return hosted by Senator Pat Toomey. Also on the panel were Phillies great Jimmy Rollins, Dr. Bhattacharya, former MLB exec Tony Reagins, and U.S.A. softball legend Jennie Fitch.

The Senator’s opening comments seemed to lean toward a return to youth sports. He touched on the fact he has three children of his own, one being ten years old, and mentioned how important Little League baseball is to his family.

“We are going to focus on the benefits that children derive from participating in youth sports,” Toomey said. “The physical benefits, the educational benefits, and the social benefits, character building benefits, it’s all very real. It’s all very important. The bottom line for me is I want to help to figure out we get kids playing sports against and safely. Especially, baseball and softball.”

He said he would sign his son up for baseball immediately if it would open in his area. Through all the date given and the state’s commitment to containment and social-distancing, Toomey felt it would be safe to resume youth sports over the summer.

“As the father of three kids, especially a ten-year-old, I have a real personal interest in this,” Toomey said. “I know my ten-year-old wants to get back to playing Little League baseball. There are some very real challenges that face youth sports.”

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and youth softball ambassador, Jennie Finch, who has already had her kid’s team out for practices, echoed those thoughts, "I am so thankful, and now that I am a mother of three kids, I see the values that are instilled that transcend way beyond any playing field. That is what I am all about instilling and driving into our kids - teamwork, leadership, discipline, sacrifice. All of those things that sport teaches you.”

This is where Little League has continued to step in and help. At the top of the page is a link to a memo it sent to every one of its leagues, detailing the guidelines to a safe return for all players, coaches, parents, and fans.

"Why not be outdoors? We wear masks, if we're around people we understand social distancing, and the importance of PPE,” three-time MLB All-star and all-time hits leader for the Philadelphia Phillies Jimmy Rollins said. “But we don't want to stop living our lives. We don't want to stop having our normality’s from existing. And what's happening right now, none of that exists. We're sitting there watching reruns and watch the news. We hear about the negative things, but we should be focusing on what we can do instead of what we can't do and working on getting back to what we can do and aren't doing."

The work hasn’t stopped for Little League now that the Series and remaining postseason tournaments have been cancelled for the summer. It has been involved with all the leagues and has made participation of all its kids, not just the All-stars, a top priority.

“From Little League International’s perspective, we wanted to put youth sports in perspective,” Keener said. “By that I mean, understanding how important Little League Baseball and Softball are to communities. There are a lot of other important things that are going on that need to be addressed as well. We’ve tried to balance putting the proper perspective in place. As soon as it’s safe to do so, that’s when we really want to get running full steam ahead and get back on the playing field to play Little League baseball and Little League softball.”

One way it has been able to help was pulling all fees for the 2020 season.

“Our job is to provide resources,” Keener said. “Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world and our job is to really pull as many resources together as we can and provide them to our affiliate programs.”