The softball season begins with games on Thursday.
With things ramping up, we caught up with Bert Borgmann, the assistant commissioner in charge of the sport, to dig into the details about the modifications which were made to ensure softball complies with current health guidelines.
Question: Softball was among the first sports to be given a green light to play this fall. Can you go into detail as to why?
Borgmann: Early on, softball was identified by the Governor's COVID Response team as a sport that could be played because it easily adjusts to the social distancing requirements.
Resuming athletics and activities requires answering and demonstrating certain safety measures to many different groups — including state, health, and educational decision makers. We believe softball can complete their season if all those involved — players, coaches and schools — adhere to the guidelines.
Q: Many sports have made adjustments to the sport seasons because of COVID. What are some ways that softball will look different?
Borgmann: Since the COVID-19 virus is a new disease and information changes quickly, we determined that to maintain the health and safety guidelines, limiting potential contact through games was a logical step. So teams will play 16 regular season games at maximum, as opposed to the typical 23.
When it became apparent that other sports would have to move to abbreviated seasons, and the potential for regional flare-ups this fall, reducing the season length was appropriate.
Teams are also limited to 12 players on a game day roster, and teams will qualify directly to the state tournament from the regular season.
[Note: These health and safety guidelines are outlined in the softball bulletin.]
Q: Why is the game roster limited to 12 players?
Borgmann: Current state-mandated guidelines allow for a total of 25 players on any one field. We adjusted to 12 players for each team to maintain equity. CHSAA will respond with appropriate modifications to this roster limit should restrictions be lessened in coming weeks.
Teams may have more than 12 players on their varsity roster, but can only put 12 in uniform for any single game. A player may be replaced on the roster after each game of the state tournament has been completed, but no more than 12 players may be suited up for each team during each game.
Q: What was the reason to have teams qualify directly to the state brackets and not have regionals this year?
Borgmann: As noted earlier, we want the players to have as long a regular season as possible. And, coupled with the exposure issues that arise for schools when there are multiple days of a state tournament, we looked at how to conduct a one-day tournament for 16 teams in each of the classifications.
The sport had already adjusted its qualifying and seeding procedure to employ RPI, CHSAANow Coaches Poll and MaxPreps rankings, so this will provide a competitive field for those that qualify.
Q: Will players be required to wear masks?
Borgmann: The requirement of masks is determined by state, county and local health officials. Currently, the entire state is under a requirement to wear masks when in public places.
Players, coaches and all team personnel, including umpires, are required by CHSAA to wear masks upon entering and exiting the ballpark. The state, county and local rules will dictate if they have to wear face-coverings on the field.
Additionally, players and coaches must wear mask and social distance while in the team dugouts. That may require some players placed outside the field or inside near the fences when on offense.
Borgmann: A final thought: If we want to see the 2020 season come to completion with the crowning of a state champion, it is imperative that all those involved in the sport follow the guideline established by the state, county and local health departments, along with the CHSAA. We have a personal responsibility to ensure that we protect the sport we love.
And that may mean doing things we do not like, but it's the only way we can have a positive conclusion to the season!