Since Major League Baseball finalized its reopening plans in late June, over 100 players have tested positive for COVID-19, throwing into jeopardy the prospect of completing a baseball season, however short, during a global pandemic. Now, a team of University of Massachusetts students are working to make sure that youth baseball organizations across the country aren’t put into the same quandary.
During this year’s Pioneer Institute & Nichols College Sports Management Policy College Case Competition, Alvin He, Xinran Liu, and Minying Zhou won 2nd place for a policy proposal discussing adaptations little league players, coaches, and parents can make to stay safe while continuing to participate in America’s national pastime.
In particular, the UMass students suggest that athletes get tested regularly, practice social distancing in locker rooms, and eliminate practices like shaking hands after a game. The students have a nuanced take on the use of masks during games, and their research includes a substantive discussion of the efficacy of different kinds of facial coverings. They go on to explain procedures by which sports agencies can help waive the legal liability of local organizations for COVID-related infractions, instead discussing the possibility of fines or suspensions for people who refuse to take the restrictions seriously.
The judges also praised the team’s work in elaborating on existing state guidelines, which was particularly pertinent feedback coming from Ellen Roy Herzfelder, the former Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs. The competition’s other judges include Paul Cacciatore, Vice President of Member Experience & Arena Operations with the Boston Celtics, and Joshua Medeiros, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation at the City of Bristol, Connecticut and Adjunct Professor of Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management at Southern Connecticut State University.
One of the UMass team’s more creative proposals is to have local organizations use online platforms like YouTube to allow spectators to watch the games remotely. They then discuss opportunities to use this online audience to solicit donations for personal protective equipment and other pandemic necessities.
The UMass students will receive $1,000 to split amongst the team members as part of their 2nd-place prize package. You can read their full proposal on preparing youth baseball for the COVID-19 era here.