Even if baseball could return this summer, Claremore coach Jim Sherl wouldn’t want it to.
At least not right away.
On Friday, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association board of directors rejected the proposed reopening plan by a 7-6 vote, clearing the way for high school sports to begin summer activities immediately with no restrictions despite the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Districts must now determine health and safety guidelines for student-athletes.
Another board meeting on June 9 could introduce an updated proposal, but for now, schools are free to reopen facilities and welcome back athletes.
Despite that, Claremore Public Schools is holding off on a return until at least June 15.
That means the Zebras’ already unlikely summer baseball season is even more improbable, but Sherl prefers it that way.
After all, baseball isn’t a sport one can just take a significant amount of time off and immediately return to the full swing of things. The schedule is grueling, and proper preparation is key to avoiding serious injuries.
“I think we’ll get to have the OK State Games and the All-State game, but I seriously doubt we have summer league baseball,” Sherl said. “Even if they say we can go play today, our kids haven’t thrown a baseball since March 12. Our kids haven’t thrown a bullpen. Our kids haven’t done anything, and going back to the original rules, we can’t practice during the summer. We can only play in games.”
For Sherl, that is probably the most disappointing part of the reopening plan’s nonratification.
Phase 2, planned for June 29-July 31, would’ve allowed activity-specific instruction, including intrasquad scrimmages, for no more than 60 minutes per day.
This would allow for players to play catch, throw bullpens and get their arms in shape in a more relaxed setting.
“I’m not too worried about the kids themselves being in shape, I’m just worried about arms,” Sherl said. “If you tear up an arm, you’re talking about 6-8 months. You’re talking about ruining their football season, their basketball season and you’d be hoping they’d be recovered for baseball season. Basically what I’d be doing is asking a kid who hasn’t thrown a baseball to go out and try to strike people out.
“I’m going to hurt somebody’s arm; I’m going to get somebody hurt.”
Under normal circumstances, Claremore spends six weeks of arm progressions and drills for pitchers in preparation for eight weeks of throwing bullpens. That is 14 weeks of preparation to throw 60 pitches in a competitive setting.
This methodical approach has led to limited arm injuries over the years for the Zebras, which is something Sherl takes great pride in.
Because of that, he doesn’t see the feasibility of rushing to play a few summer league games.
“To ask our kids, ‘Even though you haven’t picked up a baseball in three months, go out and throw 60 pitches’, that would be tough for me to do as a coach. I don’t want to put a kid in harm’s way over a few weeks of summer league baseball.
“Most of these kids just lost seasons, so I don’t want to lose them any more while trying to get in a few summer games.”