OUR VIEW: Let's ease into Little League play

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The quarantining done this week for the winter weather felt vaguely familiar, as we have spent much of the past year pent up in our residences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have done without parties, eating out, concerts, college football - even Christmas family gatherings. 

In Jasper, city ballfields have been closed for about a year, meaning no league ball play. Now, a number of cities in the state and area have reopened parks for play this year - and Jasper parents want to know why Jasper hasn't done that by now. The issue was raised at a Feb. 12 Jasper City Council work session.

Jasper Mayor David O'Mary was correct to say that just because one person does something - such as jumping off a cliff - that doesn't necessarily mean its good for someone else to do it, too.  The pandemic is still ongoing and vaccinations are only now getting underway.

We have failing memories if we don't recall that only a month or two ago, the whole nation, including Walker County, was surging with cases and deaths. Turning around to consider teams, much less ballparks, was something that didn't have much priority for many. 

However, we have gotten past the holiday surge and, at least for now, the average daily number of cases in Walker County has declined by 19 percent over the past two weeks, according to the New York Times. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the area have fallen, but ICU occupancy in the area was 88 percent on Feb. 11. We still have a ways to go. 

There is also some confusion as to what was said online about whether the Jasper City Council had to make the decision to open the parks up. It is apparently not so, and they've been needlessly blamed, although they will likely be consulted. O'Mary told the council if three council members texted him, he would open the parks. (Actually, that is probably to be considered closer to a council vote and could be challenged as illegal. That needs to be done in a meeting as a safe measure.) 

The most prudent thing is that there was agreement for Peter Cosmiano, the parks and recreation director, to see if a safe plan can be established for play. The city has already agreed to practices for individual teams, without competitive play, as proposed by some coaches.

Mind you, it has been pointed out that it may be too late this season for competition to be organized in Jasper, and that many players may go to county teams. We hate that, but this is a deadly pandemic, and we would rather plan at a deliberate pace. Cosmiano says only about half the municipal park and recs in the state have opened up ballfields. 

Sports have been an uncomfortable situation for many people during this pandemic. Indoor sports like basketball have been a concern, and we have seen games where spectators were crammed into bleachers without masks. Outdoor sports are somewhat better, and Little League ball is spread out quite a bit. Moreover, Councilman Willie Moore has good points about how a select few teams practicing could leave some children out. 

Meanwhile, even if just for practice - and especially for competition - Cosmiano needs to come up with well-thought out rules and procedures for dealing with this pandemic, ranging from length of season, interaction at bases, attendance limits in families and so on. Certainly there must be enough rules out there this point to be able to guide us. We are sure he came come up with a plan quickly. 

We are as tired of masks, distancing and the like as the next guy. We want to hug people, go out to parties - and play sports. But we have months to go before we are immune.

Sometimes a bunt is better than swinging for the stands. Let's play ball - and life - smart until we can really cry out, "Play ball!" 

-Daily Mountain Eagle