Little League practice

Little League coach Ryan Hanis, right, helps Zyrus Manabat during pitching practice at the Ketchikan Little League Field on June 14, 2019. Hanis coached Manabat on team Tongass Trading Company last season. Ketchikan Little League is hoping to get back on the field this season, and might even be able to as quickly as next week. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

The baseball and softball fields have sprouted bases.

Oh yes, spring is certainly in the air. But so too has been the novel coronavirus that has put the sports world on hold for the past couple months.

But the job Ketchikan has done in limiting the number of local cases to 16 — and none recorded in more than a month — has only helped give promise for sports seasons this summer.

Warmer weather brings the itch to step foot on a ballfield. And with that, the younger generation might be the one to first provide somewhat of a normality for the First City.

All things considered, Ketchikan’s kids are about to start their little league seasons.

“The hope is to start having practices next week, and then games probably starting sometime in early June,” said Nathaniel Currall, Ketchikan Little League president. “That’s our hope and desire, anyway.”

The KLL has been working on a mitigation plan, which must comply with the state mandates, to be approved by both the state and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

The borough owns Walker and Dudley fields, and is working on its own mitigation plan.

But once everyone has their T’s crossed and I’s dotted, the kids can take the field.

“The mitigation plan is fairly involved, to make sure we have everything covered, and make sure all of the parents questions are answered and make sure everybody’s concerns are addressed,” Currall said. “... (The borough’s) very cooperative, and I think anxious to help us get going. So I don’t think their review will take too long.

“And I think the state is going to try and also do their best to make sure that our plan complies with all the mandates, and their phase reopening,” he continued. “So I’m hoping to get a fairly quick turnaround on all of the that.”

The KLL was originally planning on hosting tryouts at the end of March. But just a few days prior, ‘stay-at-home’ mandates were put in place, due to COVID-19 spreading, and that brought everything to an abrupt halt.

“We were already ramping up registration,” Currall said. “There were a lot of people registered already, before this started. A lot of leagues in other parts of the country, certainly further south, had already started their season.”

Little League Baseball and Softball announced a moratorium until May 11, and on April 30 officially canceled its World Series and regional tournaments for the first time in its 74-year history.

“I think around the same time they announced the Little League World Series not taking place, they did say, ‘OK, we’re sticking with that May 11 date. We’ll lift the moratorium as of May 11,’” Currall said. “So once we got that news, then we started moving forward to see what it would take to get our season rolling.”

With the Little League World Series canceled, Ketchikan’s All-Star tournaments are canceled, as well. But that also opens the possibility of extending KLL’s season later into the summer.

That schedule typically ends in late June.

“That’s a disappointment for a lot of those kids that would’ve been playing on those select teams — the All-Star teams,” Currall said. “But it also gives us a little more flexibility in the season and scheduling to allow the kids to play a little later into the summer.”

For the older age groups — including senior, junior, major and minor leagues — teams were comprised of a draft, instead of tryouts this season, because of social distancing guidelines. Younger age groups, like T-ball, were assigned teams.

But KLL still expects to have almost its full lineup of baseball and softball clubs this season. To date, nearly 350 kids are signed up to play in the baseball and softball divisions.

“We’re planning to have all divisions and all age groups that we have each year,” Currall said. “We expect registration to be down a little bit, but not that far off our normal marks. I think we might be dropping a couple teams in some of the divisions. But I think we still have a lot of participation. A lot of people are ready to go and play.”

It’s the desire to scratch the surface of normalcy.

“Especially with all this beautiful weather we’re having,” Currall said. “(It’ll) help get the kids out, and be a little bit more active.”