While stay-at-home orders remain in place across much of the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic, youth sports returned to one community in Missouri over the weekend.
About 550 kids between the ages of 7 and 14 participated in a youth baseball tournament that was held at two separate venues outside St. Louis, according to tournament director Rob Worstenholm. The games featured a series of social-distancing rules, requiring umpires to call balls and strikes from six feet behind the pitcher, for example, and limiting the number of players in a dugout to three.
Worstenholm, who owns GameTime Tournaments, told USA TODAY Sports on Monday that players, coaches and parents "did an outstanding job" following the guidelines and described it as "a fantastic weekend."
"If they wouldn't have, we could've looked really bad," he said. "But it turned out to be just the opposite. It turned out fantastic. Everybody followed the rules. And it was a beautiful thing."
Some public health experts had warned that the baseball tournament posed a significant risk, even with the social-distancing guidelines that Worstenholm had outlined. Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University, described it to TIME last week as "unconscionable."
"It’s like I’m shooting craps," Binney told the outlet. "One good roll doesn’t mean I’m going to keep rolling well. You’re still gambling every time you do something like this."
The "Mother's Day Classic" tournament, which featured 47 teams, came less than a week after Missouri entered the first phase of its "Show Me Strong Recovery Plan." Though St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis were excluded from the plan, it opened the doors for games to be held in areas nearby — including at venues that ultimately hosted the tournament, in Jefferson County and St. Charles County.
Worstenholm said he hoped that the tournament will serve as "(proof) to everybody here in St. Louis that this can be done safely." When reached by a reporter Monday morning, he was working to finalize details for another youth baseball tournament, to be held next weekend.
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