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A WALK IN THE PARK – Jim Moormann walks through Sitka National Historical Park this morning, as he has every day for the past two and a half years. This Saturday is National Trails Day, an annual event which began in 1993 to honor the National Trail System. In normal years volunteers help with trail maintenance in parks across the country. This year there will be no organized cleanup in Sitka and, without tour ship visitors, Sitkans will have the park to themselves. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Little League Plans Season with Safeguards

By GARLAND KENNEDY
Sentinel Staff Writer

Despite a number of difficulties and delays, the Sitka Little League plans for a modified summer 2020 baseball and softball season, league officials say.

“We’re going to do something for the kids who want to do it, even if it’s sandlot baseball,” Sitka Little League president Karen Case told the Sentinel. She noted that following the cancellation of the Little League World Series on April 30, local organizations got a green light from the international organization to coordinate their own summer leagues, with local- and state-level guidance.

“As each state and community will have different guidance for resuming organized youth sports, Little League International strongly encourages volunteers to confirm with their local and state health officials that it is safe to do so before resuming Little League activity,” Little League International said in a statement April 30.

At the moment, Sitka Little League is in the process of doing just that by coordinating safety and mitigation plans with local and state authorities.

“What I’m hoping for is drafting teams in very late May, starting practices in the first week of June, and then scheduling some games,” Case said. “We will look into the possibility of a tournament in Southeast Alaska, but that’s far down the road right now. We’re just trying to get the kids on the field.”

Sitka Little League players take to the field in spring 2017 as they are introduced during opening day ceremonies. This year’s opener is on hold because of COVID-19 concerns. (Sentinel file photo)

Case emphasized that given the uncertain nature of the ongoing pandemic, dates aren’t yet definite.

League Information Officer Nikki Balovich, who works primarily with the softball side of Sitka Little League, said, “We’re hoping to do more of a sandlot style season. Just with our lower numbers and not knowing how many girls are going to participate – I’m just trying to be hopeful and optimistic that we can make it work and that something will happen for the girls.”

She added that the league is waiting for the state’s “Phase Three” reopening plan before making a final plan for baseball and softball this summer.

Case described the cancellation of nationwide Little League activities as “crushing.”

“It was really shocking. It’s such a big part of our lives,” she said. “The kids were very disappointed. The very tail end of the youth basketball season got cut off, and then the news came out that possibly there would be no Little League.”

She said plans are now in the works and awaiting state approval to allow for organized sports to resume.

“Currently, our assistant district administrator and state safety officer are submitting a whole package, protections and guidelines, on how we will handle the COVID situation as a local league and a state league,” Case said.

In the ongoing second phase of the Reopen Alaska Responsibly plan published by the state government, “athletic organizations must establish a COVID-19 Mitigation Plan for their participants during practices, trainings, events, or competition addressing the practices and protocols to protect staff, participants, volunteers, spectators and the public.”

Rich McAlpin jogs around an empty Moller Field this morning. McAlpin, a Sitka Little League board member, said that teams had been practicing in the batting cage all winter and were ready to take the field just before state mandates to stay at home came into effect. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Among other requirements, the state plan calls for health screenings of participants and the regular sanitizing of public areas.

Case said that in order to protect players’ health, Sitka Little League will ensure social distancing and prohibit the sharing of items such as bats or helmets. She added that there also will be regular cleaning of shared facilities.

“I think we can make it work, with some guidelines and being careful,” she said.

As for the spectators, Case said the league is looking at multiple options, from social distancing in the stands to asking spectators to watch the game from their vehicles.

Case said in a typical year, about 300 kids, from small children to 16-year-olds, play in Little League. But while there’s been public interest in the league this year, she’s unsure exactly how many families will want their children participating. She added that the league is seeking a waiver that would allow 17-year-olds to play as well.

Sitka Little League player agent Ryan Gluth said, “We believe Little League is a vital part of our community and a great thing for our kids, parents, and coaches. My job as a player agent is, first of all, safety and making sure that the players have a good experience safety-wise and baseball-wise.”

Specifically, he said, the league is looking into areas where social distancing may be difficult, namely the dugout and home plate.

He noted that it’s likely that fans will watch games from the fenceline or from vehicles. “We’re doing our best to make sure that our players and spectators are safe,” he said.

While there’s traditionally been a large opening ceremony to kick off the season, Case said that won’t be possible this year.

“We’ll try to do something special for each division or each team but we will not be able to hold the typical opening ceremonies,” she said.

The main thing, she said, is to focus on putting together a season, despite the challenges.

“We just decided that I have had enough phone calls and enough interest that we will go ahead and do it,” she said.

Little League registration is open now.

 

 

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 6-5-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:50 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 11

Total statewide – 524

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 48, and the cumulative number of deaths is 10.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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