If Mike Smith’s plan works out, senior baseball players from four area schools will still get a chance to play for their schools, albeit a bit later than they planned.
Smith, set to coach his third year of varsity baseball for Salamanca High School, has a contingency plan for the possibility of a canceled spring sports season, with schools closed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s worked with coaches from Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Ellicottville and Randolph to plan a high school summer league, including seniors who are set to graduate in June. While informal and after graduation, Smith hopes the summer league can give seniors a proper send-off to a likely missed season.
“I reached out to three of our neighbors and three of our competition-level neighbors,” Smith said. “As soon as we’re cleared, the three other coaches and myself have decided to put together a high school summer league. It would be graduated seniors, seniors who didn’t get to play this year and down to and including modified kids, eighth graders if we have to field a team. Basically it’s a summer league just for our four high schools.”
Smith plans on holding a month-long summer season, hoping for government clearance by mid-July to resume such athletic events. The season entails two games a week for each team, held in a weekly doubleheader, for three weeks. Games will last seven innings, followed by a five-inning second half of the doubleheader. After the team have played each other for six games total, a final weekend would have two five-inning playoff games, followed by seven-inning consolation and championship finals.
“We will play once a week for a month, we can go right up until football starts on August 15, so if we’re cleared mid-July we can pull this off. We would play a seven-inning game followed by a five-inning game, a doubleheader with a seven and a five, following all high school rules for pitch count.”
While a government official himself as the Mayor of Salamanca, Smith will look to the state level for guidance on when baseball can safely resume.
“I would wait for the governor or somebody who says (so), not me,” Smith stressed. “I’m not a doctor, although I’ve played one on the radio.
“Once the governor gives the clear to resume, we would almost immediately resume. If we were cleared to go today, we would use this week to organize and try to play next week.”
Smith said he would try to book St. Bonaventure’s facility for the final week using booster funds from the team’s canceled trip to Outer Banks.
“We’ll go into the last day, on a Saturday maybe or we could do it on a Sunday. No. 1 plays No. 4 and No. 2 plays No. 3, five-inning game. Then the two losers play seven and the two winners play seven for a championship, so there are four games on the last day.”
The summer league would rely on school fields for the “regular” season, and perhaps some of the schools’ equipment such as catchers’ gear, but Smith said official uniforms won’t be mandatory.
“That would be the plan for a summer high school league, giving this year’s seniors who didn’t get a chance to play their senior season a chance to play,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of kids who went out and bought new spikes and should at least get to use them before they outgrow them. It wouldn’t be overly fancy, I’m going to work with Jud Foy and try to get sanctioned umpires, but if you don’t then we’ll use whoever we have to use. It’s very much informal. We’ll try to get nine kids and go from there.”
(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)