TRAIL TRIMMING – Dyana Mutchler-Walsh trims trees and shrubs along the Castle Hill ramp this morning. Mutchler-Walsh is one of a half-dozen students building trails and doing trail maintenance this summer through a Southeast Alaska Independent Living program. The program wraps up Friday. (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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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-6-20)

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 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

New cases as of Wednesday: 40

Total statewide – 3,484

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 19 (14 resident; 5 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 141.

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

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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20 YEARS AGO
August 2000

The city’s solid waste incinerator closed Wednesday, two days after the contract with Sheldon Jackson College for its operation ended. ... The city will ship all municipal waste except biosolids off-island to a landfill in Washington. The biosolids will be buried in the Kimsham landfill, Public Works Director Hugh Bevan said.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

Ernest Robertson, a Sitka resident most of his life, has moved back here with his family after a five-year sojourn in Anchorage. “Anchorage was just too big,” Ernie said. “It wasn’t like Sitka, where every time you go out on the street you meet your friends.”

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