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Youth sports teams look to out-of-state opportunities during St. Louis County shutdown

“We wanted to go forward if it was allowed by the governing bodies, the county, the state, and the CDC guidelines”

ST. LOUIS —

Earlier this week, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced new guidelines that will allow certain youth sports to resume on June 15. 

Low-contact youth sports will be permitted to resume play under restrictions, while high-contact youth sports will be permitted to resume practice and training under similar guidelines.

But after nearly three months of tournament cancellations across the nation, many adult and youth softball and baseball tournaments will resume this weekend across Missouri and surrounding states, outside of St. Louis County.

The Rawlings Tigers baseball organization will be utilizing the practice option when allowed to do so in St. Louis County, but have turned to opportunities in surrounding areas to begin play sooner.

St. Charles County is one of the geographic areas where tournaments are permitted under specific safety guidelines.

Rawlings Tigers President Aaron Jaworowski said their organization chose to begin participating in tournaments in line with regulations released by the state.

“We wanted to go forward if it was allowed by the governing bodies, the county, the state, and the CDC guidelines,” Jaworowski said. “So, we’ve been following that very close.”

Three baseball teams within the Tigers organization will play in a “Prospect League” tournament held in St. Charles this weekend, and seven other competitive high school teams will travel to Columbia, Missouri, and out-of-state to play in tournaments. 

Jaworowski said the organization began looking at more out-of-state tournaments than originally planned because it became difficult to find games to register teams for in Missouri. He said the organization had many teams scheduled to play tournaments in St. Louis County, but those tournaments have been cancelled.

“A lot of our teams in our organization were pretty set to play in those tournaments a long time ago,” Jaworowski said. “Before the shutdown even hit. So, now with the St. Charles County tournaments going on, they’re sold out and people don’t have options to play.”

The CDC currently lists travel tournaments for youth sports in the “high-risk” category for the spread of COVID-19, but they are not prohibited in counties such as St. Charles.

They are considered "high-risk," because it requires people to cross "geographic areas."

Jaworowski said all parents have been informed of all CDC and specific county executive recommendations and guidelines, and have been encouraged to choose whether or not they allow their child to play based on their comfort level.

Jaworowski said he’s also participated in bi-weekly calls with other Rawlings Tigers directors in more than 20 states to determine which states are allowing tournaments to resume safely, and how to best handle travel and play under specific safety protocol.

The Tigers organization has asked all players and families to stay home from games and tournaments if they have experienced symptoms of COVID-19, or if they’ve been around someone who has tested positive for the virus.

All players, coaches, and officials at these youth tournaments will be screened and asked to have their temperature taken prior to the game.

The Prospect League baseball tournament being held in St. Charles this weekend requires players to social distance at all times, including outside of the dugout.

 All high-touch points will be regularly sanitized, and all officials will be required to wear a specific face covering. 

Jaworowski added that many high school athletes within the organization have been eager to play with limited recruiting opportunities due to the pandemic. 

He said with the NCAA Division I Council prohibiting coaches and team personnel from traveling to recruit, it’s become essential for teams and organizations to find ways to help players still receive that opportunity at a crucial time.

“It’s very important because they have a short timeline,” Jaworowski said. “The 16’s and 17 year olds, it’s their window of opportunity if they want to play in college. So, we’re trying to provide that opportunity for them within safe parameters and following all the guidelines. 

Jaworowski added that if all teams remain healthy and safe, the organization will continue its schedule of at least 80 events that are planned in the coming months.

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