ELLSWORTH — Long a feature of the city’s summer sports scene, Little League baseball and softball won’t be played in Ellsworth in 2020.
Ellsworth Little League announced last Thursday that it will be canceling the season in its entirety as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The decision came as many other leagues both locally and statewide announced similar cancellations and followed the cancellation of state and regional tournaments as well as the Little League World Series.
“With the restrictions and mandates currently placed on youth sports, we would not have been able to implement the necessary precautions and provide a fun and productive season for all of the kids in our program,” the league’s marketing manager, Lyndsy Clough, wrote in a Facebook post. “Our first priority must always be the health and safety of our players, volunteers and spectators, and we thank you for your patience and understanding.”
The announcement came just less than a month after Maine State Little League announced that it would not be holding a state championship tournament this year. Leagues have since been deciding on an individual basis whether to continue their individual seasons.
Ellsworth Little League, which replaced the Down East Family YMCA Little League following the 2017 season, was set to play its third season in 2020. The league was coming off a strong 2019 campaign that saw the 9-10 and 11-12 softball teams and the Junior League baseball team win District 1 titles and participate in their respective state tournaments.
The decision marks yet another Hancock County sports season washed away as a result of COVID-19. That means hundreds of young baseball and softball players will not get opportunities to showcase the hours of hard work they’ve put in in preparation for a new year on the diamond.
“[To] our baseball and softball players who train year-round for this one season, we know you’ve been putting the time in, making sure your skills are constantly improving,” Clough said. “Please don’t think for a second that was wasted time. Keep that same motivation over the next year.”
Maine’s guidance for the return of non-professional sports recommends that communities avoid travel teams and even scrimmages between teams from the same communities. Between those daunting restrictions and others on equipment sharing and team meetings, Clough said, a 2020 season would not have provided the joyous memories of years past.
“No games and all those restrictions put you in a really tough spot when you have a program of 200 kids like we do,” Clough told The Ellsworth American. “We wanted so badly for it to happen, but we just wouldn’t have been able to produce a fun and quality environment for the kids.”
Two other local leagues, Bucksport Little League and Mount Desert Island-based Acadian Little League, have canceled their spring seasons but are still holding out hope to resume activities later in the year. Bucksport is looking to hold summer and fall camps for baseball and softball, respectively, and Acadian Youth Sports is looking to hold a modified version of its annual Marty Lyons Classic in August.
Ellsworth Challenger Little League, an area Little League chapter offering an adapted form of the game for children with physical and intellectual disabilities, has yet to make a formal decision on its 2020 season. Todd Wagstaff, a volunteer and league co-founder, said league organizers were set to meet during the week to decide what the season might look like come late summer and early fall.
“My feeling is that we will still play our season,” Wagstaff said. “[There will definitely be] no jamboree this year, and we will likely end up using parents and family members as buddies to assist players.”
Clough said the Ellsworth Little League players who lost what would have been their final season in the organization will be honored at some point in the future. The timing and manner of such a sendoff will be determined at a later date.