Citing Little League International’s move to cancel its regional tournaments and the 2020 Little League World Series, Raul Loera Jr., president of the Laguna Madre Little League in Port Isabel, announced late Thursday that the league and its board voted unanimously to cancel its 2020 season in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The news release from LLI on Thursday announced the cancellation of all 82 of its qualifying tournaments and seven World Series events, including Little League, Junior League and Senior League softball.
For Loera, the decision was a difficult but clear-eyed one. Once he saw Edinburg’s municipal Little League — with 1,200 registrants — cancel its season April 24, he felt compelled to take the next step.
“The kids’ safety is more important,” Loera said. “I have four grandkids, and they all play all of the sports (I’m) involved in.”
Families who have paid registration fees will be refunded, Loera said.
“Fortunately, we hadn’t processed the order for our uniforms, so we got lucky on that,” Loera said. “We were able to cancel that. We will be returning checks to our sponsors. Everything comes to a complete screeching halt.”
Softball players across the Rio Grande Valley are being encouraged to find ways to stay active.
“I have a lot of young softball girls who are practicing at home with their parents,” Loera said. “They went out and bought equipment so they could do all this stuff at home.”
While softball is a sport that requires teams to own or utilize lots of equipment that can be expensive, there are several ways to stay in shape with games that simply require a partner to play catch or a wall and a tennis ball, said Raul V. Martinez, who runs the Brownsville Sports Park Little League.
Patty Silva, vice president of softball with the West Brownsville Little League, is cautiously optimistic in that the language in LLI’s statement allows for local discretion for resuming regular season activities beyond May 11, as well as local district, state or all-star tournament play if it is deemed safe to do so by local authorities.
She estimates that WBLL had enough girls registered to form between eight or nine teams, including an all-girls T-ball team, with team rosters holding no more than 13 players.
“We’ve been keeping a close eye on what Little League International tells us to do,” Silva said. “We’re probably not going to look into (starting the season) until maybe June or July.”
All of the Little League baseball and softball chapters from Roma to Brownville are governed by District 24 administrator David Tobias, who has been in virtual meetings this week with LLI officials from across the country.
In the interim, the finishing touches are being applied to the new West Brownsville Little League Park, featuring a mini diamond for the special needs/adaptive community in the Challenger Division, and fields that have been officially designated for separate baseball and softball use but can still be used for both sports.
“It was specifically made for softball,” Silva said. “And that’s the way we asked for it and voted on it from the beginning. It used to be that it was all baseball, and softball could be adapted to it. However, in this case, we wanted everybody to have a home of their own. … And that’s one of my things, to make it clear that girls have an equal opportunity to play.”
Silva has been fielding many texts and calls from parents with questions about when the pandemic will pass and when it will be safe to resume play.
“We just encourage (parents and their kids) to keep them practicing at home,” Silva said. “And stay safe and healthy and hydrated. They need to be in shape. Practice whatever you skills can with your parents or siblings, because nobody is getting together with coaches to practice or anything like that.”