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Oceanside little leaguers in full swing

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Bob Maloney did everything he could to make his first year as Oceanside Little League President go as smooth as possible.

“I was amped up and wanted to be ready so everything was set except for our player draft for the upper divisions,” Maloney said. “We were ready to open April 4 before the pandemic hit. We planned getting back to a tradition of a kickoff parade, but it never happened.

“Our Board of Directors stayed in close contact during the shutdown and we said as soon as we got the green light to play, we’d play,” he added. “We knew how important it was for the kids to get out of the house and have fun.”

Baseball, softball, gymnastics and field hockey topped the list of team sports permitted to begin under social distancing guidelines as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Phase 4 reopening plan. Long Island entered that phase July 8, and Oceanside’s season began five days later.

“It was a rough four months with no sports,” said Joe Maturando, whose son, Daniel, 10, is an avid soccer and baseball player. “He was itching to get back on the field,” he added. “Everyone wanted to get back to some sense of normalcy and it was great to see the guys who run the league did their best to make a season happen.”

In addition to limiting spectators to two per participating athlete, per Cuomo, Maloney said additional safety measures are in play such as the umpire working behind the pitcher instead of behind home plate, each team providing its own baseballs, the wearing of masks wherever necessary and eliminating handshakes, hi-fives and sharing of equipment.

Jennifer Berkowitz said her 11-year old son, Asher, is happy to be playing baseball with his friends again. He kept his skills sharp during the pandemic through virtual training with a hitting instructor and in the backyard with his father, Ron, who also happens to be his coach.

Maloney, who has two sons playing (14-year-old Ryan and 11-year-old Liam), said the league consists of 225 participants this year, down from the usual 500-plus. Tee ball was the only level cancelled. Teams are scheduled to play at least 10 regular-season games, followed by playoffs. The league is expected to wrap up within first few days of September.

Securing fields was a challenge, Maloney said. With school district grounds closed, the league is utilizing Oceanside Park and Wrights Field. “The Town of Hempstead has been phenomenal,” he said.