The on-again, off-again Durant OK Kids baseball season is back on course for a June 1 start after appearing to be done for during a strange and contentious 24-hour period last week.
A day before team drafts were to occur on May 14, the league stated it was informed that the city of Durant had no intentions of opening access to city fields before June 15.
According to league sources, they were told by City Manager John Dean that decision was based on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s social-distancing guidelines and the inability for players to stay properly distanced while in dugouts and on the field.
Following that information, the league board voted unanimously to cancel their efforts, which had included an eight-week season with an end-of-season tournament that was slated to start June 1.
"There were no plans to follow the typical season schedule and send team to the OK Kids regional/state tournaments as that would have left only four weeks for a season," board member Brad Dollar commented at the time.
"If we were able to start playing on June 15, we would only have six weeks at the most to try and complete a season. This option is not feasible considering the costs to players and the lack of games each team would get in a six-week period. This is not the outcome that any of us wanted, but it is the reality of the situation we find ourselves in."
While the Durant league had started the process of refunds, a public social media outcry began that included several teams reportedly contacting the closest nearby league in Atoka to request participation.
The Atoka group, which is under the same state regulations, was still planning to begin the season in accordance with the governor’s phased protocol and announced via social media that it was extending its registration deadlines to May 17.
Less than 24 hours later, however, Durant City Manager Dean posted an update saying that the city was continuing to take actions to open city facilities following the "Open Up and Recover Safely" statewide approach.
That statement include a subtext that effective May 15, organized sports activities can begin but "must operate under proper social distancing and sanitation protocols. Also, that the goal is to be able to resume full organized sports activities on June 1."
In response, Durant Mayor Oden Grube also posted via social media, "The city manager never said there would be no access to ball fields till June 15. If you want correct information talk to your council members or better yet, the city manager. All the false rumors are getting a little old".
The league season will once again commence June 1 with division drafts slated for this week.
"The board wants to extend our gratitude to each and every one of you," league president Trevor Dean said. "This has been a crazy time of trying to schedule this league. The board has worked diligently to host this, with many roadblocks. We appreciate the cooperation of the city and would like to thank them for allowing the opportunity for kids to play."
During the same time frame the Durant Soccer Club, which had publicly announced plans to begin its season May 23, announced it would be canceling its 2020 season.
"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been determined for the safety of our members and the citizens, that usage of the sports complex will not be available until June 15th, and with our affiliation with the Oklahoma Soccer Association (OSA), our season must conclude by June 30," the Soccer Club Board posted.
Unlike the little league, the soccer club has not made any changes to the season cancellation and did not respond to a request for new information as of press time.
When contacted, the city manager added that city was planning on following the state reopening plan all along.
"The city position has been all along that we would follow the state reopening plan," he said. "The State OURS Phase 2 (effective on May 15th) states ‘Organized sports activities can reopen and operate under proper social distancing and sanitation protocols’. As an avid sports fan, father and grandfather who has played and coached youth sports, I am not certain how youth baseball, softball or soccer can social distance while playing.
"Our staff had a number of discussions regarding if social distancing could be accomplished while playing team sports. There were many discussions regarding ideas of dates that the state may allow certain things to happen. The only specific date that was established differing from the state was that the pool would open June 15th due to the date of notice from the state and work that had to be done to prepare the pool to open. Our staff moved quicker than anticipated in preparing the pool so the pool will open on June 8th."