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Bellmore-Merrick little leaguers play the waiting game


America’s Pastime is on hold or canceled at every level across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Major League Baseball, set to open March 26, will begin at the earliest in mid-May following the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that prohibits gatherings of 50 persons or more.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) canceled all spring sports across the board, granting an extra spring season of playing eligibility to seniors in the process, all high school spring sports are postponed until further notice, and the Little League International Board of Directors and staff strongly advised programs to suspend/delay their seasons through no earlier than Monday, May 11.

North Bellmore-North Merrick Little League President Craig Kute, who coaches all three of his sons’ (Alex, 10, Nicholas 8, and Logan, 5) teams, is hopeful the 12-game season can be played in its entirety or at least a condensed version. 

“There’s a lot of optimism with trying to get the kids out there when this pandemic is all over,” Kute said. “Teams were put together in January and February as usual and we’re still accepting registrations. We have about 700 kids registered and we’ve yet to get a single cancellation.”

At this time, Kute projects nearly 50 baseball teams and more than a dozen softball teams will be ready to go. Typically the season would start in early April. “We have to follow the orders of the Governor and County Executive and also hope the facilities we use aren’t shut down,” Kute said. “This is a baseball town. My kids have been practicing in the yard and itching to play, and I know they’re not alone.”

The Merrick Bellmore Little League canceled its annual opening day parade, which was planned for April 4, said President Nick Ippoliti. There are 950 kids registered for the 2020 season.

“Everyone understands there are so many variables out of our control,” said Ippoliti, who noted only two of 12 games would be missed if the green light is given for May 11. “We always have tremendous support from parents, sponsors and the school district,” he added. “Everyone looks forward to the season and hopefully we can have one.”

Little League International, which operates more than 6,500 programs in 84 countries, posted the following message on its website (www.littleleague.org): “We recognize that this is the heart of the traditional Little League season, and we share in the great disappointment that many are feeling surrounding this additional pause in the 2020 season. However, it is our hope that by doing this, we will all play a small, but important part in flattening the curve in the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will continue to consult with appropriate medical advisors, government health officials and our volunteer leaders around the world, and we are committed to doing the best we can for the safety and well-being of our players, families, volunteers, and fans. It is our sincere hope that we can find ways to bring everyone back to the Little League fields this season, whether that’s later this spring or throughout the summer.”