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Baseball in Billtown

As my friend, Tom O’Malley’s familiar greeting goes; “top of the morning to you” on this St. Patrick’s Day. May the green many of you are wearing soon be matched by the arrival of green grass on our lawns and warmer temperatures abounding!

With the opening of the 2021 Major League Baseball season two weeks away, many of the states where MLB teams are located have announced new guidelines to allow fans to be in the stands.

Earlier this month, Governor Tom Wolf announced revised COVID-19 restrictions that will increase capacity at both indoor and outdoor sporting events. The announcement will allow for 20% of maximum occupancy at outdoor stadiums and 15% at indoor arenas, providing social distancing guidelines can be followed. This new directive would allow the Philadelphia Phillies to have 8,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park and the Pittsburgh Pirates 7,500 at PNC Park.

Locally, the Williamsport Crosscutters’ inaugural season in the new MLB Draft League would also be bound by the 20% guideline. Crosscutters’ director of marketing & public relations Gabe Sinicropi explained what that will mean at Bowman Field this season.

“Right now, we are hearing the same information as other stadiums in the state that would allow 20% capacity with social distancing. Social distancing is the bigger bug-a-boo as far as the number of fans that will be allowed in the stadium. With social distancing, we would be allowed to have a limited number of fans in the stands. I would think we would be able to make some announcement regarding attendance limitations in the next few weeks.

“We have been working fervently on various plans trying to determine how we can maximize the number of fans we can seat while also keeping everybody safe. It’s been a challenge, not only for us but for every other stadium across the country. There are some ticket plans and promotions that we’ll have to forego for the coming season because of lack of inventory. We won’t have the inventory to work with that we usually would. The stadium capacity is 2,500, so 20% of that figure would mean that we’d be permitted to have 500 fans. That is a far cry from the 2,000 that we average for a Cutters game.

“We ask for everybody’s patience and understanding. We certainly hope that the capacity figure allowed will expand as the season progresses, but if social distancing is still the norm, and I think it will be, there is only so far we can go because of our lack of space. Between 500 and 600 people is most likely what our attendance limits will be barring some significant change in what’s going on.”

Sinicropi also gave updates on the installation of a new scoreboard and the search for the Cutters 2021 manager.

“We will not have the new scoreboard available for this season. The approval for the installation came too late for everything to be ready for our May opening. We would need to have the scoreboard installed about a month before the season to be able to have things ready to go for opening day. With all the other issues we are facing, the construction of the scoreboard will begin immediately after the 2021 season ends, sometime around September 1.

“Prep Baseball Report, who is under contract with Major League Baseball, will be hiring the managers for the six teams in the Draft League. They currently have some people under contract and will soon be finalizing that process. Once that is completed, the announcement of the league’s managers will be made, which could come before the end of the month.

On the east side of town, Lycoming College is expected to name the coach of the soon-to-be-established Warriors baseball program sometime in April.

As announced in December, Lycoming College will be adding baseball and field hockey and is partnering with the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and Penn College on the construction of a new field to be located at the south end of Rose Street. The two new sports will give Lycoming College full membership in the Freedom Conference.

“Baseball has firm roots in Lycoming County with a long and distinguished history with minor league baseball at Bowman Field and the birthplace of Little League Baseball,” said Mike Clark, Lycoming College athletic director. “We look forward to providing these two sports to our students.”

While much depends on the development and availability of the new Rose Street complex, the college hopes to field a club level baseball team in 2022, with full varsity competition to begin in 2023

“Expanding the number of athletic programs we have will bring more men and women to campus to take advantage of both our curriculum and the learning that takes place through athletics is very exciting,” explained Dr. Kent Trachte, Lycoming College president.

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