Behind the Mask Podcast: Episode 108: Mask Up

Today’s topic is going to be Mask Up. This is about softball. There are a lot of rules that have been put forward to allow the girls to be able to play, coaches to coach, and for us to get back on the field to umpire. Regardless of how you feel about COVID-19, its impacted a lot of things in our lives. How does that affect us on the field? And the most important of that is what can we do as officials to make sure that we don’t hinder those games from being played?

Face Coverings and the IESA

The IESA has provided a number of guiding principles that has allowed softball to be played this Fall. Amongst those, face coverings are the most visible and obvious. Adherence to the IESA Return-to-Play rules are the responsibility of coaches and host schools, however I have received multiple questions about the role an umpire should play in guiding players, coaches, and spectators.

As an umpire, you are not required to wear a face covering while actively officiating a game (live ball play). You are expected to have a face covering on your person while at a facility and you are expected to wear a face covering at the pre-game meeting and in any “discussion” with a coach on the field of play, taking lineup changes, etc. If you are within six feet of a coach, player, or spectator, and the ball is not live, you should have your face covering on.

IESA guidance in the Return-to-Play states

Face Coverings

  • ATHLETES: Face coverings are required at all times when not engaged in training, competing or other strenuous activity.
  • ATHLETES: Face coverings are required whenever athletes are in the dugout or not actively participating in the contest.
  • COACHES: Face coverings must be worn at all times when not actively engaged in strenuous physical activity.
  • SPECTATORS: Face coverings must be worn at all times when attending both indoor and outdoor activities.

The full set of Return-to-Play guidelines is available on the IESA website.

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IESA Reverses Decision about Fall 2020 Sports

Given new information from Governor JB Pritzker, the Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) has made an about-face on their previous decision to cancel Fall sports, including softball.

Governor Priztker and his cadre have ranked softball and baseball as low-risk sports, given that limits are placed on how many people are in the dugout together and some additional guidelines. As such, the IESA has determined that softball can be played in the Fall. The IESA has announced that softball teams may begin their practices on August 3 and they may conduct their first game or contest on August 15.

Of course, there are still a number of considerations and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines to be followed. Adjusting to those guidelines and consulting with parents will take a few days, so we shouldn’t expect much to happen (for umpires at least) on Monday, August 3.

Bloomington-Normal Junior High ADs will meet next week to collectively produce a plan to meet IDPH guidelines to ensure as safe a situation as possible for student-athletes, coaches, and fans.

Visit the IESA website to read the full news release.

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School’s Out Until 5/1

Today Governor Pritzker announced that all Illinois schools will be closed through at least April 30. This evening I processed game cancellations through that date, which ended up being 172 additional games being canceled from 4/7 to 4/30.

Assuming no canceled games are made up, there are still 104 scheduled games on the docket between 5/1 and 5/23. Though it doesn’t look like we’ll get any Spring softball in, here/s to hoping with fingers and toes crossed!

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Coronavirus Bill Update

Yesterday the United States Senate unanimously approved an economic rescue plan in response to the Coronavirus. It moves to the House of Representatives today and is expected to pass without issue. From there it will be sent to President Trump to sign into law.

The New York Times (NYT) has developed a nice, succinct FAQ page that breaks down the bill nicely. You can visit the FAQ on Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronovirus bill on the NYT website.

Key components of the bill that relate umpires and other independent contractors are provided below.

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