Little League cancels playoffs after positive COVID-19 tests

Players and coaches for the Red Sox wear masks during the national anthem prior to a July 7 Brattleboro Little League baseball game against the Pirates on the South Main Street field.

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BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Little League opted to cancel the remainder of its regular season and the playoffs after learning on Aug. 13 that a player's mother had tested positive for COVID-19. That player and his mom's partner later tested positive as well.

"We were able to get 33 games in before the virus surfaced, but we did not want to take any chances," said Brattleboro Little League President David Cyr.

He noted that the player who tested positive was last at the South Main Street field on Aug. 6.

"Aside from those three people, I don't know of any positive results in the Little League family," said Cyr.

Gov. Phil Scott gave youth baseball programs in Vermont the green light to start their season on July 1. Brattleboro Little League voted to play during the pandemic and then drew up a list of guidelines, including that each player and coach would have a temperature screening before entering the field area.

"When the players arrived, we gave them the thermometer test before the game. Some kids would have a high temperature, but then we would recheck it in the shade and it would be low enough. No kid was ever denied," Cyr said.

The snackbar was closed down, the bleachers and bathrooms were sanitized daily, the dugout areas were expanded, players were encouraged not to share equipment or drinks, and everyone at the field was asked to wear a mask and/or social distance. Marks on the bleachers were used to keep spectators 6 feet apart, however the league had no control over the fans watching from the top of the hill.

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Before each game, announcer Scott Smyth would tell the fans that these guidelines were all about protecting the kids.

"I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from parents and grandparents during the season. Not once did anyone say they thought we were being irresponsible," Cyr said. "There's nothing like a kid getting out of the house and seeing their friends. As much as they love their parents and siblings, nothing compares to being with their peers."

The only criticism the league president can recall is fans being upset that they couldn't buy hot dogs there.

Cyr also mentioned that somewhere between six and 10 parents didn't allow their child to play during the pandemic. The program still managed to have seven teams, but this was considered an exhibition season after Little League scratched its 2020 Regionals and World Series.

"Bennington canceled its Little League season. Rutland was looking to play," responded Cyr after being asked about other programs in the district. "Several towns up in Burlington played Little League."

With the Giants atop the Brattleboro standings at 8-1, a post appeared on the league's website on Aug. 13 that practices and games would be canceled through Aug. 19 "out of the abundant caution for the safety of our community." The 10 league members later met on Aug. 20 and voted to pull the plug on the postseason and Fall Ball.