NORFOLK, Va. - Weeds have popped-up in the infield of diamonds at a youth sports complex in Norfolk, as COVID-19 has paused practices and games for months. But the sprouts are not the only thing growing. So is the debate as to when to restart youth sports like baseball and softball.
"We all want kids to return, but want to do it safely," Jon Solomon told News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler via Zoom Thursday.
Solomon is the editorial director for the Sports and Society Program of the Aspen Institute. He's written extensively about COVID-19's impact on youth sports.
"We're already seeing youth sports come back, and in some cases - we think it's coming back in a more dangerous way, a riskier way,"
So what makes it more dangerous? Well, Solomon and the Aspen Institute have stepped up to the plate with an answer: travel ball. As out-of-region or out-of-state teams come to one site, researchers say that's a swing and a miss.
"Many experts are saying travel team sports should be the last phase to return to youth sports, but - in many cases - they're the first," Solomon noted.
But that's a curveball for folks like Derek Flanagan.
"I have a tournament coming up the third weekend in June, and right now I have more out-of-state teams than in state teams," Flanagan admitted.
As the owner and tournament director for Central Travel Sports, Flanagan hosts youth baseball tournaments across Virginia.
"Obviously I want teams to feel safe at my tournaments," Flanagan said. "But when you're bringing teams from out of state into the area, they're spending money at local businesses - and our local economy is getting money back."
With multiple positions in play, whenever youth sports do start - organizers will have to make sure their bases are covered.