Senior softball team cautious about beginning season June 3

  • LC Miners player/coach John Daley is ready to get back into the batter’s box after delays from the coronavirus pandemic pushed back the start of the 2020 Clayton League Senior Softball season.
    LC Miners player/coach John Daley is ready to get back into the batter’s box after delays from the coronavirus pandemic pushed back the start of the 2020 Clayton League Senior Softball season.
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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the sports world hard for both young and old.
High school, middle school and Parks & Rec sports were cancelled after rising concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
For the Seniors of Swing, Lumpkin County’s two senior citizen softball teams the LC Miners and the Dahlonega Gold, the pandemic has pushed back the start to their 2020 Clayton League Senior Softball season.
The teams tentatively and optimistically set the pushed back start date for the season to be Wednesday, June 3.
However, LC Miners’ player/coach John Daley is not so sure that the scheduled start to the season will happen.
“I really doubt that the season will be able to start on June 3rd,” said Daley. “When you consider that our league plays in three different states and the league has players, from at least four and maybe five, that play; a lot of things have to happen in a short while, most of all they have to open up the various ball parks for us to play on.”
With games venues in eight different cities, including Tiger, Dahlonega, Gainesville and Blairsville and Franklin, Hendersonville and Waynesville North Carolina and Clemson and Spartanburg in South Carolina; for the Clayton League’s 2020 to start three states’ governors would have to loosen their restrictions and guidelines in a way that made it clear that recreational sports could resume.
One of the biggest obstacles which threatens to push back the start of the season from its scheduled start of Wednesday, June 3 is the restriction on the number of people who can gather at one time. The maximum in all three states is currently 10 people. With at least a total of 26 players present between two teams and not including any fans that come to cheer them on, the current restriction maximums on how many people can gather stands in the way of the hopeful June 3 start.
Another problem facing the league is Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s extension on the state’s shelter-in-place order for those in the high risk category to June 12. For many of the players on the LC Miners and the Dahlonega Gold age alone puts them in that high risk group.
There’s also the issue of players being prepared physically for the season, especially given that none of the teams have been able to hold an official practice.
However, the Miners and the Gold have found some creative ways to get some swings in recently.
For the last two weeks members of both teams have gotten together in groups of 10 or less to get some work in.
“The practices we have had haven’t really been practices,” Daley said. “They are about as unofficial as we can get. It is basically just hitting sessions with guys getting together to hit some balls.”
Given the current social distances guidelines, the two teams just aren’t able to have the kind of practice they would like.
“We really can’t organize a real practice without the whole team, or at least most of them there,” Daley said. “We have to maintain six feet of space between us and can only have no more than 10 people on the field.”
The frustration of not being able to be on the diamond is as real for Daley as it is for all the student athletes that missed out on their respective 2020 seasons, especially when it comes to the camaraderie that sports provide. It’s something that many of the Clayton League players look forward to every week during the season.  
“It has been very frustrating for me personally because I really enjoy playing softball, not just the games but also the fellowship that it creates,” Daley said. “Not only with our teammates, but also the other teams in the league.”
With Georgia and South Carolina already rolling out a reopening strategy, all eyes from the Clayton League players are on North Carolina which still has a stay-at-home order in effect until May 22.
What happens after North Carolina’s order is set to expire could have a huge impact on the league’s 2020 season.
It’s a season that Daley and his teammates have been looking forward to ever since they won their division last season. Daley is also excited about the debut of some new talent on the Miners’ roster.
“Don Paul [LC Miners’ left fielder] and I both have been really looking forward to this season,” Daley said. “Last year winning our division was nice and when we had our full team we felt that we could play and beat anyone in our league. We picked up two players that will improve us. Greg Lewis, a speedy outfielder with a pop in his bat, joined us at the end of last season and was not available for the playoffs. This year we also picked up Mike Kelley, a transplant from Florida, who can flat out crush a softball. He has hit several balls at each practice that, in my estimation, have traveled in excess of 400 feet.”
With the June 3 start date fast approaching, a lot of things will have to go the Clayton League’s way for the season to get underway and for the Seniors of Swing to get back to the sports they love.
And, if everything does work out before then, Daley says a workable, shortened schedule has already been devised.
“We do have, thanks to Don Paul, a schedule set in case we can start.”