Batter Up: CMSA's Open Sunday Softball League begins play on July 12

Wed. July 8, 2020 7:35 PM by Ross Forman

mark sakalares

photo credit // provided
The sweet sound of summer softball is coming back Clarendon and Margate Fields on the north side of the city with the Open Sunday Softball League, run by the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA).

'Play Ball' will be heard starting this Sunday, July 12.

“We are excited to be able to get back on the fields in a safe manner,” league commissioner Mark Sakalares said. “CMSA has put in place a strong set of protocols after working tirelessly with the (Chicago) Park District and Amita Health. We feel that, when adhering to those protocols, we will be offering a safe, responsible way to play softball.”

The league will have 21 teams, with about 270-280 players competing in three divisions this summer: Recreational, Intermediate and Competitive. The exact breakdown of divisions is not finalized yet.

“While I am sure there are a number of folks who are not ready for this step, which we fully understand, there are others who have decided to opt out due to the shortened season or for many other reasons,” Sakalares said.

Each team will play two games each week with a modified championship at the conclusion.

The season will run eight weeks with each team receiving one bye week.

CMSA's long-running Open Sunday Softball League is, and has been, working long hours to try to get back to some sort ofnormalcy, whatever the new normal is, as the world has been fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“So many of our folks need this; they need the camaraderie of being part of a team again; they need this for their mental health;they need this social interaction,” Sakalares said. “But again, I cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone also understands that we are doing this safely and that we will not waiver, even slightly, from the protocols established.”

The protocols are many, Sakalares said. First off, all players, coaches and umpires will be required to wear a mask or other face-covering at all times. Equipment will be disinfected at each half inning and each team will have a ball assigned to them while on defense. 

Plus, all players must complete a health questionnaire each week. 

Temperatures will not be taken at the fields. “The health questionnaire covers if participants have had a fever within a certain time frame,” Sakalares said. “There will be constant communication from the league via varied sources to continuously work with participants to assess overall health. The health questionnaire will be completed weekly by all.”

Dugouts will not be used due to the inadequate area within the dugouts along with other common sense protocols, Sakalares said.

And what if someone does not want to wear a facemask?

They won't play, Sakalares said. “Everyone has a choice to make if they want to play or not. If they are not comfortable wearing a mask or suitable face covering, then they have chosen to not play,” he added.

The league's commissioner said it is strongly encouraged to not share equipment, such as bats.  But, if a bat is shared, it will be required that it be disinfected between uses. CMSA will be providing disinfectant at each field for that purpose.

Another change this season hits team's pre-game routines. Team huddles, for instance, will not be allowed. Teams are encouraged to come up with a creative pre-game cheer, given restrictions.

Sakalares confirmed that league and CMSA board members will be at the fields during all games to observe and regulate. “That presence will be very well known,” he said.

CMSA's women's softball and Ultimate leagues also are slated to be starting.

“We (cancelled) the 2020 spring (Open Sunday Softball) season at the end of May (and) when we did that, we advised our membership that if and when we found it safe to do so that we would explore having some sort of a modified season,” Sakalares said. “When the Chicago Park District came to us is when we started working on the modified season. It was only when the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and AMITA Health signed off (on) the safety plan that we moved forward. If any of those threehad not, we would not have moved forward.”