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Stay-at-home extension dims hopes for spring high school sports season

High school spring sports, including baseball, are in

High school spring sports, including baseball, are in limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: NEWSDAY/DAVID L. POKRESS

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There is still a chance that Long Island public schools will have a spring sports season, but the window for one is closing.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday extended state stay-at-home policies from April 29 to May 15, meaning school buildings will remain closed until at least that date. Both Pat Pizzarelli, executive director of Section VIII (Nassau), and Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI (Suffolk), said they have game-planned for a modified spring season if schools can re-open at that time.

Baseball requires 10 practices before competition, and the other spring sports require six, further squeezing the time frame to get some semblance of a season in.

“This change of date has a big impact,” Combs said. “With the mandatory practices, we’d be looking at playing the first game of our season in the last week of May. It gets a little tight at that point.”

“I believe we still could still play something of a season if we’re back on fields May 16,” Pizzarelli said. “But, even if schools resume, it will be up to the superintendents to decide whether it's safe to have athletics.”

As recently as 10 days ago, Combs said that Section XI administrators had formulated four different season scenarios based on potential return dates. Cuomo’s Thursday change takes three of them off the board, he said.

“The ‘New York Pause’ policies, the closedown policies, will be extended in coordination with other states until May 15,” Cuomo said, citing the infection rate. “I don't want to project beyond that period. That's about one month. One month is a long time. People need certainty and clarity so they can plan.”

What might a season look like that starts that late? Schools could play league foes once – possibly twice in baseball and softball, which allow doubleheaders – and be followed by a championship tournament “or some other culminating event,” Combs said.

“Are we pulling the plug? Not yet,” Pizzarelli said. “If schools reopen much beyond that it gets tougher and tougher.”

Combs said he recently took part in a Section XI executive board meeting over the Zoom platform during which the subject of extending the ending date to later in June was mentioned. No decision on that possibility was reached.

Pizzarelli and Combs will participate in meetings at the local and state level next week when more could be decided about a possible spring season.

CHSAA cancels state tournaments, but not season. The Catholic High School Athletic Association has canceled all state championship tournaments for spring sports but would allow schools to practice and compete through June 30, said Our Lady of Mercy Academy athletic director Karen Andreone who represents the Diocese of Rockville Centre on the state council.

“We could have some semblance of a season and even some sort of a [Diocesan] championship, but it’s not the highest priority as we look to a possible spring season,” Andreone said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “We want those, but more important, we want the student-athletes to finish their school year with a sense of normalcy.” 

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