by Robert Mingolelli
Last Wednesday evening I took in a baseball game between two Groton-Dunstable youth baseball teams in the Cal Ripken League, Minors Division West at the Cow Pond complex. It is always enjoyable for me to watch the kids at this stage and then as they advance through middle, high school and beyond.
The Groton-Dunstable teams play against Townsend-Ashby, Pepperell and Shirley. There is also a Minors East Division with teams from other towns. The winners of each league will play each other in a playoff game August 24.
The spring season was cancelled due to the Corona virus. Normally in the summer, the league has a short season with a few travel teams competing against teams from area towns. This summer the games are being treated as a spring season, playing 12 games in 6 weeks. Currently, there are 12 Groton-Dunstable baseball teams involved including Pitch level to Senior Babe Ruth.
The Cal Ripken League is a “rec league” (recreation league), with the focus on development/education and not on competition. The aim is to build the kids’ playing skills but also teach values and leadership. Everyone makes the team and everyone gets to hit. The kids are moved around the field playing different positions so it is fair to all players. Not everyone has the ability to pitch in each league, so there is limit to who pitches for safety reasons.
There are no tryouts. Once the kids get to Minors level there is an evaluation process to make sure the teams are balanced. But this year due to the Corona virus, evaluations were cancelled. On rare occasions, a younger player might be
called up to the next league level because he/she is that good, or a recommendation to a parent for a player to ‘play down’ a level for their own safety.
“Getting things organized this year was difficult due to the State timing on Phase 2 and Phase 3 guidelines,” said Commissioner Rob Foley. “We are pleased that we were able to get the league up and running, and are proud of our diligence in defense of Covid-19.
“We are maintaining State Phase 3 guidelines and even have kept some Phase 2 guidelines to keep our kids and their families safer. From what we have observed, compared to other town’s teams, our G-D Youth Baseball league has been exemplary. And, relative to other sports like soccer and basketball where teams converge on a ball, baseball is less of a contact sport,” continued Foley.
“However, we know the Corona virus does not discriminate. All this said, taking the pictures of both teams together took only 2-3 minutes and in general, health professionals are most concerned about prolonged contact of 10-15 minutes.
“But more than anything we are just happy that the kids have an opportunity to play, have fun, and see and make new friends,” he concluded.