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A return of the boys – and girls – of summer

South Boston News / June 25, 2020

Ever since COVID-19 disrupted daily life, one local organization has always had the idea of a return to some kind of normalcy at the forefront.

South Boston/Halifax Baseball and Softball are the organizations. Since March — when their season was put on hold — board members always planned to return kids to the playing field as soon as safely possible to do so.

With Virginia now in Phase 2 of Gov. Ralph Northam’s three phase plan and Phase 3 projected to happen July 2, youth baseball and softball are back in Halifax County.

“We start back July 6,” said David Ashwell, president of Halifax County Dixie Baseball. “We are going to play for eight weeks and give each team two games a week.”

Having athletes to compete this season hasn’t been the problem, even in wake of the coronavirus. With a full array of teams, Dixie baseball will be back in full stride and actually has a shortage of coaches at the time.

“We’ve got seven older boys teams ages 13-18, six Ozone teams ages 11-12, Six minor league teams ages 9-10, five AA teams four single-A teams and six t-ball teams. I’m still working on T-ball because I had nine teams but I had four coaches quit,” Ashwell continued.

If one is thinking that’s a lot of teams playing, you would be right. Ashwell and his board have been working tirelessly to keep in contact with parents, athletes and coaches and it shows in the numbers of young athletes competing.

“I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m not gonna take the credit for that. That goes to everybody that’s on the board,” Ashwell said. “We as a group have a vision that we wanted to get baseball back, and we’re gonna try to … We want as much normalcy as possible, we want to get family and friends back together.

“To be honest I’m overwhelmed trying to get the T-ball going, that’s the hardest thing,” Ashwell said with a chuckle. “All the other teams and parents are sending Facebook messages and I’m trying to do my job and everything else, it’s tough. We will get them, they will be on a team and play T-ball.”

Ashwell said your favorite players to cheer for would probably be without uniforms for the first week of competition or so.

“There will probably be a delay in uniforms because of the delay of getting this stuff done’” Ashwell explained. “So, the first week they may not have uniforms but you know that’s all right, that’s okay. We’re going to get ‘em.”

The league president also noted the demand The Complex is receiving as travel ball teams are already requesting the site for competition.

“We’ve had some travel ball stuff going on at the complex,” Ashwell said. We have travel ball teams that want to come and play at the Complex. Right now it’s just lack of help. It’s just hard to do that ‘cause you know I can’t be there every weekend from seven till midnight, Saturday and then 7-8 on Sundays.”

With the time away from the diamond and just the restrictions put in place for going outside during Phase 1, keeping the ballparks up have been a challenge. Ashwell says they’ve done their best to keep the fields in check.

“The fields are in good shape,” he explained. “We kind of let Scottsburg slip out from under us.”

The concessions this season to start with will be primarily chips, candy and the like. This to help halt the spread of COVID-19 with too many people handling the food before one receives it. Sanitation will also be a point of focus.

“There will be a condensed concession stand,” he said. “No cooking of food;, we will have drinks all packaged food like your candy and chips and stuff like that ... We’re just not going to take a chance — as of right now — with serving of cooking foods. That’s to eliminate any other extra hands involved with it.

“We’re going to try and promote the social distancing. Now whether or not that happens … We plan to have sanitizer in each dugout.

“We would like each parent to ask their child before they come, how they feel. And if they’re sick, please leave them at home.

“I’m not gonna sit there and ask every coach did you check your kid’s temperature before they came. I’m not the COVID police, but let’s just be responsible as family members and adults. We’re providing a place for kids to come and play ball. So, just help us out. If somebody’s feeling ill, just miss that game.”

One can sense from the lengths that the organization has gone to make a ball season possible this year that Ashwell has a love for the baseball, the kids that play it and of the Halifax community. He said his father-in-law actually played a big part in him becoming so passionate about youth sports in Halifax County.

“Well, I’ll be honest with you, I always wanted to coach since I was young and when I moved here my wife’s dad, David Myers — he’s in the Hall of Fame here, he’s been a youth baseball coach and well respected, kids loved him, he was hardnosed and believed in his way — he got me into coaching and I’ve kind of run with it from there,” Ashwell shared.

“Like him — I’m not as hardnosed a he is — but when it comes to the passion and wanting to provide for these young kids (boys) and the young girls that play, I learned that from my father-in-law, David Myers. And I owe it all to him because he and I talk a lot of baseball.

“And because of him, I think is what has helped me. It has made my passion for local community baseball. That’s my driving force, is him.”

Ashwell said one of the best things about returning to baseball will be just seeing the kids back outside and enjoying the game of baseball. He stated even his own kids were excited.

“We’re excited, the kids are excited — my kids love to go. I mean they ride a golf cart all around the complex,” Ashwell said.

John Newcomb, who leads Dixie softball, said they will be back playing next week. He encouraged those who are coming to please put the health of others and your own as a top priority when attending a game.

Newcomb said they are asking fans to bring their own chairs, use proper hand sanitizers , and maintain social distancing measures the best possible. If anybody has a fever or anything like that, they don’t need to come.

“We just want to make sure everybody follows the guidelines,” Newcomb said. We don’t want anybody to not follow guidelines and get us shutdown because they took it upon themselves to do what they wanted to do versus the way we allow.”

Dixie baseball and softball was blessed with a huge donation from the Harrison Conner family on Monday night.

“Troy Nation, Cluster Springs Ball Park were all beneficiaries of generous donation from Harrison Conner and his family,” Ashwell added. “I cannot put into words how amazed and THANKFUL for not just us, but the other three organizations.

“The way he (Conner) ran Halifax South was top notch and he always looked after the local kids. It’s obvious that he is still looking over our local youth with the donation. The amount of money will be put back into our program and will benefit our youth for many-many years.”

Troy Nation received $10,000, Cluster Springs Ball Park $14,000, and Halifax Dixie baseball and softball $35,000 to share.

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