THOMASVILLE — Baseball season in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) will look a lot different this season.
Players are no longer allowed to exit the dugout to congratulate a teammate after a home run or when a run is scored. A charged defensive conference shall be conducted on the outer edge of the pitching circle, maintaining physical distancing.
Such are the new guidelines set forth by the GHSA during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The big thing to me is the pitchers can't blow on their hands and lick their fingers at all,” said Thomas County Central coach Ryan Strickland. “It automatically becomes a dead ball. That's one of the things I can see happening over and over in a game. It's such a natural habit for a kid to do.”
One of the most strict measures that the GHSA has implemented to protect players, umpires and coaches during a game is the sanitation process of baseballs. When a game ball goes out of play, such as a foul ball for example, it should be returned to the host dugout to be sanitized before being put back in play.
Other rules include: team huddles without physical distancing are prohibited; no more handshakes after a game; and coaches who request a timeout to discuss a ruling on the field or to make a substitution have to maintain physical distancing from the umpires.
“Life's about adjustments, life's about changes. We'll do whatever we're supposed to do,” Cairo coach Chad Parkerson said. “You don't have to like it. You've just got to do it. We'll do it.”
At this point, baseball teams are just happy to return to the field since last season was interrupted by the pandemic in mid-March. The new guidelines are small prices to pay to be able to play a 2021 season.
“It's going to be different,” Strickland said. “The most important thing is that we're able to get back on the field. We'll do what we've got to do to get back out there. If that means we've got to stay in the dugout and stay six feet away, we'll stay six feet away.”