Little League games back in session as local players hit the diamond at Deming

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PITTSFIELD — There were nothing but smiling faces at the Little League diamond at Deming Park as afternoon turned into evening on Monday.

That's because, as Brody Kinna of Great Barrington said in response to a question, no one was never sure Opening Day would come.

"No, I didn't," Kinna said. "In April and even in May, I didn't think I was going to play until about June, when I thought 'You know what man? We're in Phase Two.' I think I'll be able to play."

Kinna is a member of the Wheeler & Taylor Little League team out of Great Barrington, one of two Great Barrington teams invited to play with the teams in the Pittsfield American league.

"Wow. It's kind of amazing," Kinna said. "I guess it's cool that this is one of the first baseball games around here."

Wheeler & Taylor beat Dave's Sporting Goods 14-3 in the Deming opener. It was a game where the team from South Berkshire sent nine batters to the plate in each of the first two innings, and had 10 hitters come to bat in the fourth inning. Wheeler & Taylor scored multiple runs in five of the six innings, and was shut out in the fifth. Winning pitcher Griffin Touponce had three hits, drove in two runs and scored two. Oliver Curtis had two hits and scored four runs.

Dave's didn't register a hit until Robbie Bazinet's fourth-inning double. Dave's was shut out until the sixth, when they scored three runs on three hits.

The teams were able to play because Gov. Charlie Baker's office released standards for sports and recreation in Phase Three, Step One.

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The release allows for moderate risk sports and recreation where, according to the release "Sports or activities that involve intermittent contact, but with protective equipment or mitigating measures in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants."

That was why, in Monday's Pittsfield Little League game at Deming, home plate umpire B.J. Jefferson stood behind the mound to call balls and strikes. When batters hit the ball, the coaches had to come out and bring bats back to the dugouts. Any ball hit out of play had to be picked up by a bench player and then sanitized. And at Deming, both on the Little League and Babe Ruth diamonds, things were set up for social distancing. Only two Little Leaguers were allowed in a dugout, and there were buckets for them to sit on.

But it wasn't until the release came, shortly after 3 p.m., that teams knew if they would be playing.

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"I knew I'd be getting [the field] ready" Monday, Pittsfield American president Greg Coscia said before the game. "I wasn't sure if I was going to get it ready for a game or not. Thankfully, we can play."

The same could not be said for what happened on the other Deming diamond. The IAC Babe Ruth team was practicing because the opening games were pushed back until later in the week. The lateness of the decision from Boston played a role in the postponement.

"We were expecting it to come out yesterday or early today. It's super exciting just to hear that we're going to be back on the field and we're guaranteed to come back and play," IAC's Alex Williams said during a break in his team's practice. "That really got me going. I was just jumping up and down for joy a few minutes ago when [Parks and Open Spaces Manager Jim McGrath] delivered the news.

"That definitely had all of us pretty excited."

With the Monday Babe Ruth postponements, IAC will play Mazzeo's at Deming Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., which now becomes the first game of the summer season.

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"Our game wasn't scheduled until tomorrow," IAC's Tommy Mullin said. "I think it's good that we're going to be the first game."

Seeing a crooked number in the opponent's side of the scoreboard normally might bring out a lot of long faces. Those long faces were a little harder to find, since the Little Leaguers had to wait a couple of months to get their season started.

"I did, at first," said Dave's player Wesley Willey when asked if he thought they might not play. "I was hoping that we were going to play at least a few scrimmages or games."

While Pittsfield Little League is putting the finishing touches on its schedule, Willey can't wait to get going again.

"I know my team is very excited to face all of the other teams we got to face last year," he said. "It's a little upsetting that we can't face [Pittsfield] National League.

"But we're going to have a lot of fun this year."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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