BREWER – Restrictions on travel and games have made it hard to make up for lost time in the back half of summer for youth travel baseball teams, but Sluggers in Brewer is working hard to give its teams to an outlet to play the game.
The chance to practice, and the chance to prepare for a game, means much more this summer for the players at Sluggers than it has in the past. “We’re just super thankful to be playing, because a lot of people throughout the summer aren’t going to be playing their sports, and even in the fall people may not be able to play,” said Sluggers 15U player Liam O’Neal.
Sluggers is working to gain back lost ground in July, after missing out on around two months of instruction, clinics, and competition with its travel baseball and softball team due to COVID-19 restrictions. “One-on-one private instruction is a large part of our business, same with our group clinics and group camps, a lot of business is dependent on people being in the building or on the fields,” said Sluggers owner Brandon Portwine.
Players, parents, and staff have been back in Sluggers’ facility in Brewer since mid-May .Owner Brandon Portwine says around 95% of his clients joined back when training restarted, but their teams wont play the usual travel tournament circuit due to Maine’s restrictions on non-essential out of state travel.
“This year it’ll be slightly more, maybe 30-35 games, but it’s more of the doubleheader/single game variety and a little more spread out than the traditional weekend tournaments,” said Portwine.
This summer, Sluggers teams will play in an in-state version of the Elite Baseball League, and other independent leagues. That decision means friendly faces across the field instead of new competition from across New England. It’s kind of cool to play against your friends and you know some of the pitchers you’re facing so that makes it easier if anything,” said Sluggers player Jackson Sutherland.
With the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, no game, or season, is guaranteed. For athletes that play multiple sports including baseball, the games they do get to play this summer could be some of the last in the foreseeable future.
“I’m just planning on having a [basketball] season, I’m going to do what I do to get ready for the season, but if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen, it would be a bummer, especially for the seniors,” said O’Neal.