by Kevin Burton
The board that governs beep baseball may ban the traditional end-of-game handshake at the upcoming 2021 World Series to avoid the spread of Covid 19.
But if that happens it will be one of the few virus concessions employed by a sport that is thrilled to have its signature event back again.
With Covid 19 in its early stages, the Board of Directors of the National Beep Baseball Association voted 12-3 to cancel the World Series in May of 2020, for the safety of its players and officials.
Now, with vaccines widely dispersed and much more information available about the virus, the league is going full speed ahead with the 2021 series, set for July 25 to Aug.1 in Wichita.
Baseball for the blind moves forward with eyes wide open, so to speak. But the virus is still a factor in all aspects of life. NBBA Secretary Steve Guerra said he expects the board to discuss the handshake lines by the end of the July 25 board meeting.
Umpires could also be required to wear masks when they check blindfolds before a game, a task that must be done at close quarters. (In beep baseball all position players wear masks to prevent those with partial vision from getting an unfair advantage over those with no vision.)
Both measures would allow for social distancing. Guerra said he will suggest they be implemented because of the rise of the Delta variant of the virus.
Sedgwick County, where Wichita is located, has no current masking or distancing mandates according to a spokeswoman.
The Sedgwick County Commission “encourages businesses and organizations to determine, in their best judgment, whether to require individuals to wear masks or other face coverings and/or to social distance from one another,” wrote Dion Lefler in the Wichita Eagle.
The county ended the masking and distancing requirements in May, against the advice of Dr. Garold Minns, County Health Officer and Dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita.
Having those requirements lifted makes hosting a major event such as a beepball World Series much less complicated.
For example, “There’s no way the NBBA can police how close people sit on the bench,” Guerra said.
The host hotel for the World Series has a mask mandate in place for its public areas, Guerra said, “but they’re not enforcing it.”
With no local restrictions in place the league will seat the usual ten people per table at its Saturday night banquet, shelving a contingency plan to go to six per table.
The league will provide hand sanitizer at team benches and the scorer’s tables, thanks to a donation by the Austin Lighthouse for the Blind, Guerra said. Also each team will receive sunscreen courtesy of an organization in Florida.
Opening ceremonies and skills competitions are set for Monday, July 26 with no changes from past years.
Bottom line, the series should be pretty much normal. But the Boston Renegades, one of the league’s most stable franchises, will not attend this year’s series, at least in part because of the virus.
Among other virus-related issues, Boston had trouble finding a place to practice this year because fields were not available because of Covid restrictions, Guerra said.
Guerra asks everybody involved to use common sense concerning the virus for everybody’s safety, especially those who are unvaccinated and those under 12 who can’t be vaccinated.
“If people have symptoms of a cold they should exercise common sense and stay home,” Guerra said. “If a player has a scratchy throat or a fever they would contribute more to the team by staying home.”
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment website has a list of those who must quarantine upon entering the state.
That includes anyone who attended “any out-of-state mass gatherings of 500 or more where individuals do not socially distance (6 feet) and wear a mask.” That could include attendance at a major-league baseball game that allowed full capacity. Like the business mask mandates, state quarantine requirements are difficult to enforce and should not cause any issues for the NBBA World Series