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Summer recreational sports await state’s reopening instructions

When will local recreational baseball and softball teams be cleared to practice and play?

That’s a question that’s on the minds of kids, parents and grandparents across the area as summer draws closer.

Like so many questions during this time of uncertainty, the answer isn’t clear yet.

The current Safer-at-Home order from Gov. Tate Reeves is set to expire May 25.

Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey says more direction from state level government is expected after the order expires.

“Both the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors and Brookhaven Board of Aldermen will meet soon after the order expires,” said Galey. “I feel like we’ll know more about what’s possible after that.”

Gov. Reeves has allowed for outdoor practices to begin with a limit on 20 people in attendance. The Brookhaven Recreation Department and the Lincoln Civic Center Baseball Complex have both chosen to not begin practices yet under the advice of Galey.

“We felt like policing 20 people at a practice wouldn’t work at this time and our number of cases locally haven’t gone down which was another factor in not starting practices,” Galey said.

“We’ve got to look at it from all sides and make decisions about what’s good for the public health and all the families involved.”

State Agricultural Commissioner Andy Gipson wrote a letter to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs last week in which Gipson asked for guidance for holding large, outdoor events. Dobb’s reply said that his department is still working on more detailed guidelines that will be shared in the near future.

“Those more detailed guidelines will hopefully help Mr. Galey and our board of supervisors in their decision making,” says Civic Center Facilities Manager Quinn Jordan.

A year ago, Jordan and his team were gearing up to host the Dixie Youth World Series, an event that brought thousands of visitors to the area for a week of youth sports.

Now the fields sit empty and the livestock arena is closed. Coaches are assigned, uniforms are picked out, but the plan for right now is to wait for more information.

“We’ve worked with the Brookhaven Fire Department to figure out what the capacity is at our park,” said Jordan. “If we do get some directions that limit us to a certain percentage of capacity then we’ll know how many people that is.”

Brookhaven Parks and Recreation Director Matt Shell says his department had a record number of participants sign up before Covid-19 pushed the pause button on everything.

“We’ve got 565 kids signed up to play T-ball and softball at Hansel King Sports Complex,” said Shell. “We’ve talked about a long list of things we can do and measures we can take in order to spread people out, but ultimately we won’t know anything certain until we hear it from the state.”

The Brookhaven Recreation Department also has its parks closed during this time including their spray-park facilities.

Both Jordan and Shell have used its department’s Facebook pages to disseminate information and as soon as they know something more concrete, they’ll let the public know through social media.

Local officials are rightfully cautious when putting a timeline on things. If practice is announced to begin in June and then something happens to change that — the decision will have very likely come from a level of government above them.

Officials believe it’s easier to leave things open ended at this point and hope for more clarity and direction from the governor and state health department later this month.

Shell says that even if things get pushed back, the BRD plans on getting cranked back up when the green light is given.

“We’re playing ball,” said Shell. “It might be in in the middle of the summer or it might be in September and October — but we’re going to play ball as soon as we get the go-ahead.”