WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Most area high school softball players haven’t hit the field in over a year with the spring sports season cancelled due to COVID-19.
But for a group of players that are members of a traveling summer softball team, they’ve managed to get back on the field during the pandemic to play a game that looks and feels very different both on and off the field.
The Northern New York Misfits is a group of 16U players with some 14U players sprinkled in from Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties that play during the summer in a summer travel softball league.
But when COVID-19 hit and wiped out the high school spring sports season, it looked like the Misfits would be sitting out the 2020 season. Meaning players that just lost their high school softball season may be losing their summer travel season as well.
”Yeah, that was one of the hardest things to go through like in the beginning when it was- When everything was very unknown,” said Hermon DeKalb student Brianna Grant.
The Misfits usually begin play in May and weren’t able to get together until June. But even then, they faced a number of hurdles to get on the field.
”We found that there were states that didn’t have the same restrictions that we did, so luckily the parents were on board for traveling and letting the girls play. We had to change our schedule in that we traveled to Pennsylvania 3 times early on in our season in late June and early July and that really got the girls playing where some teams around here really didn’t have the opportunity to go,” said NNY Misfits Coach Alicia Countryman.
The team has played 36 games so far this season, and Countryman says each place they’ve placed has put strict guidelines in place before any players hit the field for competition.
”As soon as we get to a tournament they check us in, they make sure a COVIDwaiver is signed by all the players and the parents and we turn that waiver in. Then we do a temperature check. Down in Oswego we had to do a temperature check every Wednesday and when we played in their tournaments which is fine. It’s good to know. It’s a good piece of mind knowing everyone is safe,” said Countryman.
While it’s been a season unlike any other these girls have ever played, they feel fortunate to have the opportunity to get back on the diamond once again.
”It’s really nice because I didn’t get to have the chance to improve at all in the spring sports season. So it’s nice to get back out with friends and be able to play and improve and get better,” said Alexia Clemons of Beaver River.
”It’s been really great, especially ‘cause we were looking forward to having our school season and to have that cancelled, we weren’t sure if we were gonna be able to play so to find out we could it was really exciting,” said Callie LaFontaine of Lyme.
Countryman says despite all the trials, tribulations and some of the new rules they face when they hit the field, the girls have taken everything in stride and made the most of a season they will remember for the rest of their lives.
”The girls have really turned it into something fun. You know, they’ll try to make their parents social distance, their fans, whoever they bring with them, they’ll try to pick it out if they’re not social distancing. It’s tough for the kids to have to adjust, even having an umpire behind the pitcher’s mound,” said Countryman.