By Shannon Sonnier
“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”- Rogers Hornsby
When the great infielder Rogers Hornsby uttered this phrase more than seventy years ago, his desire to get back on the playing field was apparent. Many sports players, young, old, and in between, can identify with the yearning Hornsby felt that day. Sports, as much or more than almost any other pursuit, provide a rhythm to many in our communities’ lives. Young players learn teamwork, problem solving, camaraderie, and personal achievement all in the midst of having fun. There are lessons to be had in shared struggles and successes; a microcosm of life that takes place on a field. Older players enjoy being on the field playing with friends, sharing stories, and reminiscing about the good ole’ days. Sports are not something that people do; sports are something people live.
A little over two months ago JCPRD and many others cancelled the beginning of multiple spring sports seasons. As the situation developed it became clear that we had to cancel the rest of the spring season; these decisions were made in concert with our local and state health officials. While it gutted us to not provide these avenues to recreate, we knew it was the right thing to do for the community we serve.
For the past eight weeks we have worked diligently to plan for a return to the field when it was deemed safe to do so. JCPRD’s reopening plan was formed through hard work and with the consultation of many expert sources. Kansas Recreation and Park Association formed guidelines to help communities like ours to identify best practices and ways to mitigate exposure. Our plans have been shared with local health officials for feedback and advice. We’ve also recognized that this is an ever-evolving situation, and we need to be flexible to make changes in the best interest of our community and patrons.
So, what should you expect when you participate in sports this summer? Touchless sportsmanship will become the norm. Even those unfamiliar with sports would recognize the lining up of each team at the end of a competition to slap hands and tell the other side “good game.” Instead of slapping hands this will be done from a distance with a tip of the cap. Sports equipment will not be shared, and the ball used for play will be sanitized frequently. Spectators may be limited in number or spread out along a larger area than they are used to. We will evaluate frequently and adjust as needed to play in the safest manner possible.
Speaking of safety, once play resumes, visitors to Mid-America and Mid-America West sports complexes will be greeted with all new 8’ fencing and 40’ backstops. These improvements are just the beginning of a multiyear plan to make these complexes the premier hardball destinations in the region. Take a peek of the improvements at Mid-America Sports Complex as well as Mid-America West Sports Complex.
We can’t wait to see you back on the ball field when it is safe to do so. We’ll even tip our hat to you and say, “welcome back.”
Shannon Sonnier is the Assistant Superintendent of Recreation for JCPRD, primarily overseeing the sports, sports facilities, and concession offerings for JCPRD. In 2017 Shannon earned his Certified Park and Recreation Executive (CPRE) through the National Recreation and Park Association, one of only three park and recreation professionals in Kansas to do so. Shannon started his career 24 years ago working on the exact same sports fields that he now oversees.