MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - From pregame health screenings to repositioning the home plate umpire, baseball is back at the Ripken Experience Facilities in Myrtle Beach, but it looks a little bit different.
Earlier this spring, all baseball and softball tournaments were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June, the Ripken Experience laid out a detailed plan for players, coaches and spectators who are adjusting to the new safety protocols.
Before anyone can even walk through the gates you much first fill out a wellness check-in survey, which is then approved by Ripken employees.
“You have to show you’re doing that every day, so they’re taking the right precautions and make you feel safe while you’re here,” said Clinton Tanner, who traveled from Saint Peters, Missouri to watch his son play.
But Tanner said letting his son step back on the field wasn’t his biggest concern.
“I think the most nervous we got was flying down here,” said Tanner.
Inside the park, all Ripken employees wear masks and there are dozens of signs reminding people of social distancing, washing hands and sanitizing. Ripken also removed bleachers, picnic tables and closed the playground. Parents and spectators are now asked to bring their own chairs and tent to enjoy the games.
“They’ve been really good about communication with what to expect when you come down here,” said parent Jennifer Zellinger.
Zellinger traveled with her family from Baltimore, Maryland, and had some concerns about traveling to South Carolina where COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
“We have planned to stick to baseball, stick to the beach and not really go out and venture to some of the local facilities,” said Zellinger.
On the field, baseballs are assigned to each team and should not be sharing equipment.
Hand sanitizer is available in each dugout for players, coaches and umps to use between innings.
But probably the biggest change is the placement of the home plate umpire, who now stands at least six feet behind the pitcher to call balls and strikes.
“They’ve done some really neat things and you feel safe when you’re in the ball club,” said Tanner.
During the games, players, coaches and umpires are not required to wear a mask.
Though contact cannot be fully eliminated, overall parents feel comfortable letting their kids play the game they love.
“We’re still close to each other but it’s our own team, so from that perspective, I don’t see much difference,” said Zellinger.
Currently the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach as baseball and softball tournaments scheduled through August.