Auburn Suburban Baseball and Softball joined the list of state baseball and softball organizations throughout the state who have canceled their seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic. RAM Sport Photography

Families in Auburn learned on Tuesday that there will be no youth baseball or softball this year, while youth sports around the rest of the region remain on hold.

Auburn Suburban Baseball and Softball’s board of directors voted Monday to cancel the season for 2020 out of concern for families and the organization in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Auburn Suburban offers Cal Ripken baseball and Babe Ruth baseball and softball for about 500 children ages 5-16.

Board president Travis Bashaw said the decision was a difficult one, but given the known and unknown nature of the pandemic, having a season could not be done safely in a timely manner.

Bashaw said the board explored many options, drew up an action plan on how to open and operate this season and also had a long list of contingency plans. But there were too many unknowns, including when games could begin, based on the state’s social distancing rules.

Liability was also a major concern for the board, Bashaw said.

State and district tournaments were canceled over the weekend, and while that would have left a bigger window to schedule a local season, organizers were concerned a late summer or early fall season would conflict with family activities, travel teams and fall school sports.

“If we try to crowbar something into the back end of the summer, we’re going to be going up against so much,” Bashaw said.

Even following the minimal safety standards to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the burden on volunteers, players, coaches and their families to keep games safe would be so great that “we wouldn’t be close to offering the experience that we want to provide our kids.” For example, volunteers would have needed to wipe down bats, helmets and any other equipment players shared every time they were used. Balls would have been wiped down between innings.

Bashaw said registration fees will be refunded in full.

“We felt that was the best thing to do for our families,” he said. “They stand by us every summer, and in a situation like this, we can do nothing but stand by them and do the right thing.”

Sponsors will also be given their money back at their request, Bashaw said.

Lewiston Baseball and Softball has not made an announcement on the status of this season. Volunteers are currently cleaning the Elliott Field complex, and board president Tanya Whitlow said last week league officials are targeting playing late in the summer pending the state easing COVID-19 restrictions.

“If we (are allowed to) start June 1, we will,” Whitlow said.

Directors who oversee youth sports in Franklin and northern Androscoggin counties said their programs remain in a holding pattern.

Directors are looking for definitive directions from their league programs and the state before giving the go ahead for sports to begin in June.

Nic Koban, who is president of Cal Ripken Baseball in Farmington, said he is also playing the waiting game before making a decision to go forth with the season.

“I just sent out an email last week, and we just had a vote here recently as to what we wanted to do because when the governor came out with the new reopening plan, I wrote to everybody and I said, ‘For the month of May, if we can’t have gathering of more than 10 people, you can’t even practice your team,’” Koban said.

He added that even if the state allowed 50 people to gather at a game, it would would be almost impossible to hold an event like baseball.

“When you get realistic and say, ‘OK, there is a virus out there and we don’t want anybody to get it,’ having a bunch of kids share a ball and throwing it around, share helmets, share bats and tag each other, might not be the best idea,” Koban said. “Right now, we basically said, ‘Should we just cancel our season or say wait until the end of May, see how things are going?'”

“We did hear the governor was thinking about being flexible, maybe lightening up some restrictions,” he added. “We even did hear from the local soccer that (Gov. Janet Mills) might come out with varied specific plans for outdoor events and youth sports, although we didn’t hear anything further from that.”

Koban will wait until the end of May before making a decision to play or cancel the season.

Trevor Grey, Cal Ripken Baseball president for North Franklin County League, said the league is on hold until he gets “world from above.”

“Cal Ripken Baseball, for the time being, is still trying to figure out the safest way to approach the situation,” Grey said, “and we are still waiting to hear.”

“Everything seems to be on hold,” Grey added. “I put an email out on it saying that they are working on it, if they could hold the season later in the year, possibly, but still no word, yet.”

David Frey, president of Area Youth Sports in Livermore is also waiting to see what the governor will do by June 1. AYS runs the Cal Ripken Baseball program for Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls.

“We will wait and see what happens,” said Frey, who is also Spruce Mountain High School’s football and baseball coach. “We still talked about possibly playing. We kind of want to do something even if we have to shorten the season. I don’t believe we can do anything right now.”

Wilton Parks and Recreation director Frank Donald said some of the leagues around the state have canceled their seasons, while other leagues are waiting for June 1 before moving forward.

“That’s our most immediate challenge right now is to figure out if we are going to have baseball, softball,” he said. “Numbers of registrations are down, but we do have enough to go with all of our typical spring sports, if and when we decided to get rolling.

“I think we can move forward if we use some common sense,” he said.

Sun Journal photographer Daryn Slover contributed to this story.

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