Despite bans on large gatherings, a local Little League returns to practice

The Southeast Team from Goodlettsville, Tennessee at the 2012 Little League World Series (Rob Carr, Getty Images)
The Southeast Team from Goodlettsville, Tennessee at the 2012 Little League World Series (Rob Carr, Getty Images)

Just in from @tnnaterau: GOP Majority Whip @JohnnyGarrett4 flouts @GovBillLee rules on crowd size, cranks up Little League baseball practice. Click To TweetWhile the Memphis Grizzlies, Nashville Predators, Nashville SC and Tennessee Titans remain sidelined because of the COVID-19 pandemic with no public plans for returning to play, one prominent Middle Tennessee little league announced last week it is starting up practices.

Despite Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order banning gatherings of 10 or more, Goodlettsville Little League Baseball told parents and coaches on May 14 that practices could resume. Goodlettsville Little League, which has sent teams to the prestigious Little League World Series twice in the last decade, is led by state Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville.

In a post on the league’s website, Garrett unveiled the 2020 Season Resumption Plan for how practices can start back up despite Lee’s executive order. Goodlettsville Little League suspended its season on April 15 because of the pandemic.

“We believe any baseball played will be beneficial to the kids as they also navigate this unusual, social distancing climate during summer,” Garrett wrote in his letter to players, parents and coaches. “This is a time where everyone should be out and about mingling with family, friends and neighbors. With that said, we are committed to playing baseball!”

Lee’s executive order No. 30 defines youth sports leagues as gatherings of 10 or more, and such gatherings are banned until at least May 29.

“However, we feel that you can practice with your teams as long as you gather at practice at most with 10 people or less (including players and coaches),” Garrett said in his letter. “Parents should remain in their cars or a safe distance away from any field or facility so that they will not be considered a part of the social gathering. It is possible to achieve meaningful practice if you have a two hour practice and you split your team in shifts (i.e. 6 players for the 1st hour and the other 6 players the 2nd hour) in order to keep your practice under 10 players or less.”

Some parents expressed concern that the league is returning to play too soon, but asked not to be quoted because they don’t want to affect their child’s standing in the highly regarded little league. The parents worried their children could be exposed to the virus by returning to practice by the league taking advantage of a loophole in the governor’s executive order.

Because some facilities are closed, Garrett told coaches they are on their own to find fields suitable for practice. At least one team’s coach planned to use a public school field.

Goodlettsville Little League also includes other social distancing guidelines such as no shared drinks, no food, no carpooling. 

“What do we need from you?” Garrett said in the letter. “You will be hearing from your coaches to confirm if your child will be playing this season so that we can ensure we have players for every team. Please respond, in writing via text or email, your decision no later than Sunday, May 17th.”

Garrett was elected to the state House in 2018. An attorney by day, Garrett was elected House Majority Whip earlier this year.

Other little leagues, including Williamson County Community Recreation Association youth sports programming, East Nashville Little League have suspended play. Other youth sports associations such as Brentwood Youth Soccer Club cancelled their seasons because of the pandemic.

On its website, the West Nashville Sports League announced plans to begin practices for its baseball and flag football leagues on June 8, after the governor’s executive order expires. That league has exhaustive guidelines for how it will hold games, including players sitting more than six feet apart on the bench. But the guidelines don’t address how players could socially distance on the field of play during the actual games.

Pro sports leagues are developing plans for returning to practice in preparation for playing in empty stadiums this summer and fall, according to media reports.