East Mountain Little League had been in a holding pattern since it postponed the start of its 2020 season in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For three months, the league—as well as the parents and kids who signed up to play—had been hoping to jump start the season at some point.
But last week the league’s board of directors made the difficult decision to pull the plug.
“As hard as it is to make the decision to cancel the season, we want our kids to be able to play as normal as possible, with all the kids on the field and fans in the stands,” East Mountain Little League president Pat Hitchcock said. “The state and county guidelines are hard to follow in terms of playing baseball—the season would not be a season if we had to follow all these guidelines.”
Currently, the state’s guidelines only allow non-competitive play, with groups consisting of five players and one coach. Coaches must be tested for Covid-19 and wear masks, and all participants must maintain social distancing of a minimum of six feet apart.
On top of that, Bernalillo County’s community centers and ballfields—including Vista Grande Community Complex in Sandia Park where East Mountain Little League hosts its games and practices—remain closed.
East Mountain is not the only Albuquerque-area Little League to cancel its season. Atrisco Valley Little League canceled a few months ago, and all of New Mexico District 8’s leagues in the North Valley and Albuquerque’s west side have canceled.
All of the leagues in New Mexico District 5, which covers central and eastern sections of Albuquerque and extends to the East Mountains, have yet to start and have indicated they are going to forgo their spring and summer seasons and focus on a possible fall season, according to Anthony Fasulo, District 5 administrator.
Fasulo said he was not surprised to hear East Mountain had decided to scrap its season based on the limitations of the current state guidelines.
“We have not received any promising news from the state that would indicate the possibility of having a spring or summer season,” Fasulo said, adding, “We’re now looking toward an early fall season.”
The decision comes as a disappointment to parents like Tavery Moorhead and Tonya Walden.
Moorhead, whose 11-year-old son Ryan was signed up to play in the 10- to 12-year-old Majors baseball division, said, “It’s been tough for him, not being able to play, to not be able to do what he’s been doing since he was four—baseball’s his favorite thing to do.”
For Walden, the cancellation is kind of a double whammy.
Walden is the head coach of Moriarty High School’s varsity softball team. The Lady Pintos’ season was terminated in March.
Now, as the parent of two kids registered in East Mountain Little League, she is seeing another season canceled.
“I think athletics is taking a major hit to development with the loss of youth sports for the summer,” Walden said. “But I also understand because I have two children who would be playing, a daughter who just turned 11 and a son who is seven, and I would rather them be safe.”
Walden said her daughter, Peyton, who was drafted to the Majors softball team, has only played baseball. This would have been her first year playing softball.
“I was looking forward to seeing her develop and grow playing in an older-age division. This was a huge accomplishment for her that she worked hard to achieve. I haven’t missed a summer of her playing baseball or softball since she was three years old,” Walden said, adding, “Hopefully we can successfully reopen our state and return to normal. Business owners, youth leagues, athletics, schools and so many others have been effected by the pandemic but I’m grateful for all of the precautionary measures that have been taken to protect not only myself and family but everyone around as well.”
Had East Mountain’s 2020 season gone as scheduled, the league would have been wrapping up its spring campaign this week with divisional championships and a closing day ceremony June 13.
East Mountain is currently in the process of refunding fees to parents.
Estancia Valley Little League in Moriarty also canceled its season and is issuing refunds, according to league president A.J. Chavez.
Fasulo said New Mexico District 5 has canceled its summer All-Star tournaments that usually run late-June through July.
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.