Our May 1 Communication to all coaches parents and players.
Dear Coaches, Parents and Players,
So many of you have been reaching out to me for updates wanting to know what I know and what may be the outcome of the softball season for us here at Fastpitch Nation Park. I do have quite a bit to tell you.
CT is set to end its current restriction level on May 20. The Governor will announce perhaps as early as next week what the new level will be. Once he does I will have a better idea as to when we will open for the season and if the currently scheduled events will be impacted. Currently, we plan to open May 23. As soon as I know I will alert you all.
Safe Return to Play Plan
Since the start of this crisis we began formulating a “Safe Return to Play” plan. We have monitored all activity across the nation and specifically in our state. We tailored and crafted a plan that, when allowed, we would be able to get back out onto the field in a safe, albeit very modified way.
For several weeks I have been working with the local government in Windsor, CT where Fastpitch Nation Park is based, the CT State government, and health care officials on our “Safe Return to Play” plan. The plan is in review, but so far has been well received. It was made clear to me that the government is looking for business and industry to come not with their hand out, but with their hand up saying, “I have a plan”. We were certainly ready for that.
Our plan is not yet approved but we are still hoping to start on May 23 as I wrote you in my April 9 letter. I will share with you some of the highlights of our “Safe Return to Play” plan we have proposed. We realize we are unique, as we have 11 fields spread over 21 acres. Each field will be managed as a separate zone. We are anticipating very strict guidelines initially and over time, those will lessen as we move through the phases.
To open we are expecting very strong restrictions in Phase 1. Here are a just few highlights of the Phase 1 plan we have put forth to the government for review.
- Only uniformed players playing that day, 3 coaches and 1 parent per player will be permitted in the park. If a parent is also a coach that will count as the one parent for the player. Keeping numbers low initially will be paramount. No other spectators will be allowed. Since we have our HD Livestream system, those people will be able to catch all the action back at home, in the car or back at the hotel.
- For the initial tournaments in Phase 1, at least, we will likely alter pool play to two games of extended length instead of three standard games. This will gives teams longer games but more importantly, allow us to bring teams into the park in blocks. This will allow teams to come, play and leave before the next block of teams come to the park. Elimination day is not as much of a concern since half the teams leave in each time slot as they are eliminated. Once a team has completed play they will need to leave the park. There will be no lingering to watch or scout other teams.
- Parents will be socially distanced and restricted to the areas from the dugouts, down the baselines and around the outfield. No one will be permitted behind the backstops other than the parent volunteer to run the scoreboard, as these areas are potential choke points of human traffic and to maintain strict social distancing they will be off-limits.
- A full-time Safety Director will be on site to monitor and manage all the rules related to safety at the park.
- As is always the case Hartford HealthCare will have a full-time athletic trainer on site for every game.
- All open space will be utilized for warmup areas so teams can spread out far and wide.
- Individual players may bring food or drink for themselves, but no tailgating, or team meals will be permitted. No communal water coolers will be permitted
- No seeds or gum will be permitted as that encourages spitting.
- No pop-up tents larger than 10x10 will be permitted as that encourages gathering too close together. Only a parent and their own player may share a tent. No team tents will be allowed. Individual chair umbrellas will be allowed.
- For those wanting to purchase tournament merchandise an online store is being rolled out soon, so you can pre-order and pick up your purchases without needing to shop in the retail space. Online ordering and pickup will also be available on-site. The retail shop may be severely restricted or even closed for the initial events other than for online ordering and pickup.
- Some game play rules have been proposed to be altered such as:
- No pre or post game team meetings, or team huddles will be permitted.
- Free substitution will be used, hence no lineup cards.
- Teams on offense will have only 1 coach and the current 4 players in the batting order in the dugout. All other players must be outside the dugout socially distanced. Each team will designate one to two parents to monitor and control players outside the dugouts.
- Mound visits by the catcher or manager only will be permitted and all must remain socially distanced.
- No sharing of equipment will be permitted.
- Catchers, hitters and the home plate umpire may be required to wear masks.
- The home plate umpire may call balls and strikes from a position between the pitcher and 2nd base or wearing a mask from behind the plate.
- Health officials may extend mask regulations to all people at the park. Health officials will determine what mask usage will be required, if any.
These are just a few of the items we have put forth in our proposal. There are many other parts of our proposal being reviewed such as how our staff will interact with customers; what PPE they will use; how we will disinfect dugouts, bleachers, bathrooms etc. We understand that initially we will need to take a very strong approach. But it’s what will be expected by both the government and customers as we all slowly move back into normalcy. Our hope is these measures would be able to be relaxed as the state moves through the various phases this summer. So many of you are so desperate to play in some way and we are certainly eager to get the season going again, but we need to do it in such a way that all can be comfortable, even if it means serious inconvenience initially.
Many of the tournaments at Fastpitch Nation Park were already full before this crisis even started. However, we are doing all we can to make as many playing opportunities as possible. Here are the actions we are taking.
- Where possible we are opening up some slots to add a handful of Friday games on 2 day tournaments and Thursday games on 3 day tournaments. We are limited by the number of games to add by the capacity to have a full elimination bracket on Sunday.
- As soon as we know when we will officially be open, we will work with teams to use the weekdays to create as many playing opportunities as we can. These will include, weekday leagues, weekday tournaments and round robin single and double header games for teams wanting to play.
- We have added tournaments in all 4 weekends in August.
- The Fall season will start on Sept. 5 and go through Nov. 8 with ten tournaments.
We recognize for many, Fastpitch Nation Park may be the ONLY place you may be able to play this season. We are working very hard to be able to open safely and create as many playing opportunities as possible.
I continue to hear from so many of you and your support is overwhelming. Now I am fighting everyday for my business, my employees and all of you. We will get through this and we will play again.
Sincerely Yours in Softball,
Our April 9 Communication to all coaches parents and players.
Dear Coaches, Parents and Players,
As we all try to navigate these most difficult and extraordinary times, let me start by wishing you all safety and hope that you and your families stay healthy and everyone comes out ready to enjoy the sport we all love, once this COVID-19 crisis has passed. This letter updates my earlier communication sent to you on March 17.
Status of tournaments at Fastpitch Nation Park in Windsor, CT.
- On March 16 the Connecticut Governor’s Executive Order 7d was issued and announced no gatherings of more than 50 people can be made anywhere indoors or outdoors through 4/30/20.
- On April 9 the CT Governor has extended the shutdown to May 20. The government has effectively shut down our park through 5/20/20 for tournament play. We plan to resume tournament play on 5/23/20.
We all share the same disappointment and frustrations about this extension. As you can imagine I, like many other business owners across the nation, am absolutely frantic with worry. It’s very simple.
- We are worried if our businesses will survive.
- Will we be forced to declare bankruptcy?
- Will our families and the families of our employees lose their homes and livelihoods?
- Will the government be able to help business enough and will people lose everything? It consumes my every thought and keeps me up every night.
Many of you own businesses or have jobs from which you may be furloughed during this time, so I think we all can appreciate the worries we all have. This situation is causing a lot of pain everywhere and it is a pain we all are sharing. No one person or business has been spared. No one entity can bear all the pain. Neither the businesses or all the customers can bear it all. We have a nation-wide pain sharing. It seems there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. We all had hoped it would have been over sooner. But we need to endure it a bit longer it seems.
With that in mind, here is our plan to address the crisis and get back to playing softball, assuming we are once again playing at full capacity on 5/23/20. Should the government extend the ban, we will reassess this and decide then the appropriate course of action at that time. Of course we all hope that does not occur.
- All tournaments scheduled through 5/20/20 will not be played due to the government shutdown unless the government relaxes the ban. Our first event will be 5/23/20.
- Teams that have already paid their registration fees will be given full credit to play in future events at Fastpitch Nation Park or Fastpitch Nation Indoor either this spring and summer (where still available), this fall or winter or during the entire 2021 season.
- In order to make-up for the late start of our season we have added two events in the first two weeks of August (8/8-9 and 8/15-16). USSSA has extended the 2020 season to 8/31/20 so all teams can play in August with their 2020 rosters. Also we will start the 2020 fall season early on the weekend of 9/5 and play every fall weekend through Nov. 8. 2020 to insure that we have the capacity to meet the demand for all the teams that will have lost games due to this crisis.
- Further it is possible the high school season will be cancelled. Should this happen we will open up play opportunities for all the high school and older travel teams, up to our capacity, once we are back fully operational. Also, we will create play opportunities on weekdays for high school teams that want to play. Once we know what happens with the high schools we will inform everyone.
- Once we are operational the season will continue as planned and all the events that are scheduled starting 5/23/20 will be played as originally scheduled.
- USSSA has suspended tournament sanctioning during this crisis. Should the state allow us to return to playing and USSSA has not resumed sanctioning we will play events as planned anyway but as an independent Fastpitch Nation events as opposed to a USSSA event. Since all state laws are not in sync, our time frame and USSSA's nation-wide view may not align initially but it will not hamper us to return to playing events as planned.
- No team will lose a paid registration fee, however, no refunds are being offered as this extraordinary situation is neither your fault or ours. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that we all hope never happens again. The fee for an event a team has paid may seem inconsequential to a team or to an individual, but collectively all those fees are the life’s blood that allowed us to build and now operate this complex that so many of you have come to love and to count on. We need to be sure we can weather this storm financially, spread the massive loss we have taken over time, while keeping the teams whole and in the end, remain solvent and in business for our employees and most of all the players of today and those yet to come. With the plan we have put in place, we are confident we will do just that.
When I sent the original letter out to you all on 3/17 after the initial shutdown, I was overwhelmed with responses from so many of you with your support, understanding and well wishes. I know no words to express my gratitude for all those messages and calls of support I received. It has been a very difficult period for me. But I have not lost faith. I am truly blessed. We really are all in this together. I choose to believe that we will persevere and when this is over we will all be stronger.
I also want to thank the thousands of coaches, players and parents who have made our beautiful park a success. For me to realize my dream of building such a place for the girls of this region, is amazing. I am not going to let any virus or any government shutdown take this away from all of us. I am fighting with all the resources I have and all the knowledge and experience I possess, to make sure we are here for you after this crisis is over and for many years to come.
Sincerely Yours in Softball,