With county parks closed, Druid Hills Youth Sports plays in Tucker and DunwoodyAn empty baseball field at Medlock Park. Photo by Logan C. Ritchie.
Editor’s note: The author has a child participating in Druid Hills Youth Sports.
By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
Tucker, GA — There is no joy at Medlock Park these days, and there is no Mighty Casey Jr. at the bat. Hundreds of kids dressed in cleats and ball caps are not running through the fields, since DeKalb County suspended the use of Medlock Park due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, Druid Hills Youth Sports has decided to play on in cities that have kept their parks open.
The announcement to suspend play at Medlock Park came as “quite a surprise” to Druid Hills Youth Sports, according to a letter to parents dated Aug. 29.
At DeKalb County’s request, DHYS had submitted a plan for safe operations at Medlock. The plan laid out procedures based on DHYS summer leagues, with additional policies specifically developed in response to the experiences or coaches, players, and families who participated in summer baseball. DeKalb County personnel provided positive feedback to the plan, but DHYS never received permission to restart organized youth sports at Medlock Park.
The letter from DHYS President Cary Potts said, “While the Spring season was regrettably lost, our efforts did allow for baseball (and softball) activities to take place throughout the summer. The primary reason? Medlock Park remained open for organized, team activities, and DHYS was similarly able to utilize Kelly [sic] Cofer Park (where DHYS uses two additional fields, comparable in size to Fields 1 and 6 at Medlock) and other facilities to allow sufficient field space for those activities.
“That all changed with the county’s recent decision, and for the last week or two of summer baseball, teams were prohibited from practicing at Medlock Park. Unfortunately, there has been no change in status regarding Medlock.”
Due to the number of fields and their size, DHYS is limiting teams to ages nine to 15 years old. Players nine to 12 will practice and play at Kelley Cofer in Tucker; older players will also utilize fields in Dunwoody.
Tucker Director of Parks and Recreation Rip Robertson said, “Druid Hills approached us as the fields were being sold at Rehoboth Baptist Church and we have an agreement with them to provide some practice space and space for limited games for their senior age groups at Kelley Cofer Park.”
The letter said players ages five to eight will not play this season.
“[We] hope that those affected will understand that this decision was made only as a last resort, with the understanding that we believe some baseball will be better than none at all,” the letter said.
Young baseball players and softball players once used Rehoboth Baptist Church fields. The land was sold to Minerva USA and rezoned for residential use in 2018.
Enrollment this year is lower than previous seasons, said Potts, adding that only one of his children was eligible to play this fall.
Potts said the protocol to keep kids safe from Covid-19 is robust. Guided by the CDC, health professionals, and state and national guidelines, DHYS rules include:
– All adults (coaches, managers, umpires) must wear a mask during practice and games.
– Players will be socially distanced as much as possible. Bleachers will be used instead of dugouts. There will be no intentional physical contact, no equipment sharing. Teams will sanitize hands and equipment.
– Spectators will be limited and spread out.
– Temperature checks and health screens will be completed at practices and before games.
The league’s plan is focused on returning to the field safely.
“This is unprecedented times,” Potts said. “As we have seen, [COVID-19] is serious business. We’ve had a lot of parents speak up, which is great. That’s one of the beauties of our community, is that you have a lot of different opinions, a lot of bright people whose kids play baseball and softball with us. We’ve done our best to address those concerns. Numbers for the fall are lower than they typically would be because you have a lot of people who would play but aren’t because of COVID. We wouldn’t have our kids on the field if we didn’t think we could do it safely. That’s the bottom line.”
The DHYS website says, “If a player or someone in their family tests positive for an active infection of COVID-19 (so not an antibody test stating said person had it at some point previously), then the player must not attend any team activity and notify the coach of the positive test and date the test was administered (not reported). The coach will then notify the DHYS coronavirus monitoring team with the information.”
Until further notice, DeKalb County suspended group gatherings, rentals, and activities including nature programs, athletics, and after school programming. Parks are open, but playgrounds and fitness equipment is closed, and recreation centers are closed. https://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/covid-19/dekalb-service-status
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