With summer time fast approaching, and with social distancing protocols still in place, many leagues are either in a state of limbo or deciding to cancel activities. The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) is one of the few with a plan and it is simply to wait and see before cancelling softball, baseball, and tee ball for this summer. The USSSA, like many others, is waiting for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to allow social gatherings in the summer, but if she does not USSSA is prepared to cancel its season and fully refund everyone who signed their kids to play.
USSA board member Julie Rodriguez said the league is ready to play, if the ban is lifted at the end of April. USSSA held its signups for softball, baseball, and tee ball before the social distancing rules came into effect.
“We are sitting with about 100 teams, which is about an average of 1,200 kids,” Rodriguez said. “The thought of having to refund all that is a nightmare. Plus the kids want to play and that’s what it is all about. We can’t afford to wait too much longer. If (Lujan Grisham) comes in and says we are extending until the middle of May, then we are probably going to have to cancel.”
Rodriguez added the league is looking at the possibility of up to $40,000 in refunds as the USSSA is going to give back the full refund of signing up players. The price to pay softball or baseball is $60 and tee ball is $30. She has also given the parents and coaches the chance to pull their kids out have the league before or if it is cancelled and receive a full refund.
“I have offered any refunds to any of them that need the money now, or don’t want to to take the chance,” Rodriguez said. “I have offered all of them refunds and I have given some of those already. We have lost coaches for the same reason, as they don’t want to take the chance if the ban is lifted. But the majority want to play and they are willing to wait.”
USSSA is currently waiting for the governor’s decision to either end social distancing at the end of April or see if she is going to push it into May. Ideally, Rodriguez hopes the ban will end at the end of the month, allowing the organization to offer a full season to the kids, but the league is willing to wait until the mid-May before cancelling its season.
“If we can form those teams in the beginning of May, because we give them a month or three to four weeks to practice cause we have to do uniforms,” she said. “That would put us starting in June playing through July. We can’t really afford to wait any longer than that because that shoots us into August and the beginning of school.”
If the season is cancelled, Rodriguez spoke about the financial hit it would be to the USSSA this season.
“It’s a huge hit,” Rodriguez said. “We have already purchased between $7,000 to $8,000 worth of equipment to get started as we were preparing for the season. That’s all been purchased and is ready, and we already purchased the facility insurance from the city to cover our fields for the entire year. The good thing is we have not done the team registration and insurance yet, we where holding off on forming the teams because this hit the week before we were doing drafts.”
If the season is played this summer, Rodriguez mentioned the league is taking steps to keep the players safe.
“There are things in place through USSSA, our sanctioning body,” she said. “The handshakes, and hugs, and when you go out and say good game all of that has been omitted since the first break of this (COVID virus). I’m sure that will stay in place for quite some time just to be safe.”
If the season is cancelled, Rodriguez mentioned the equipment would be used in the fall season for softball and baseball and the following summer. If the fall season cannot be played, she said it will be announced in the beginnings of August and the organization would not have any sign ups. Yet she is hopeful of the league playing.
“We are doing everything possible to make it happen,” she said. “I’m very hopeful. Now if she comes out and says that we are at the end of May, then we will have to relook at it because we would not have much time. If we are looking at the end of April we are golden.”
For any parents who have kids in the league and want more information, they can call Julie Rodriguez at (575) 602-1717.