Youth allowed on ballfields
Teams must follow county guidelines in Clintonville
By Bert Lehman
Youth will be allowed to play baseball and softball games at city-owned ballfields this summer.
At its June 9 meeting, Clintonville City Council approved the use of the city’s ballfields by area youth sports organizations.
During public comments, Randy Finger, representing the Clintonville Baseball Association, spoke to the council.
His organization is comprised of what had been independent baseball organizations in Clintonville.
Finger said the Clintonville Legion team played games the two previous nights in Little Chute and Freedom, and it went “fantastic.” He estimated there were 200 people at the game in Freedom and 100-150 people at the game in Little Chute.
“Things are moving along very, very well,” Finger added.
He said the team has an 8-team tournament scheduled to be held in Clintonville, June 22-27.
“I’d really, really like to get these boys back on the field,” Finger said. “There’s so much that has been taken away from these kids, and they really don’t have anything to do right now. All we want to do is go out and play baseball.”
Because of the large size of the baseball field at W.A. Olen Park, it would be possible for spectators to social distance while attending games, Finger said.
“Just the kids’ mental status, we need to get that back,” Finger said. “Everybody heard we had a bad accident here last week and I just don’t want to see more of that. I’d like to get some normalcy back.”
Ald. Ben Huber asked if the organization has a plan for hosting games.
Finger said board members will help with social distancing. Only coaches will be in the dugouts, with the players spaced down the fence line.
He added that when the predetermined maximum number of people allowed to be in attendance is met, the gate will be closed to spectators.
Finger said he hoped the organization would also be allowed to have a concession stand to sell burgers, brats, soda, beer, Gatorade, and water.
“They can walk up to Culvers and get that, so I just as soon that that not be taken away as that is our only fundraiser,” Finger said.
Parents support allowing games
Ald. Tammy Strey-Hirt asked if any parents were unwilling to allow their child to participate.
“Not one parent has not let their child play,” Finger said. “I have 100% backing of every player. Nobody said they don’t want to play.”
Jason Ort, representing Clintonville Fastpitch Softball, told the council that the league had already had to cancel the tournament it was supposed to host in Clintonville in early June.
“We want to be able to play games,” Ort said.
He added that there are three ballfields at Bucholtz Park, and it is possible to position spectators along the edges of the fields in a manner that social distancing can be exercised.
Ort said the league would also like to operate a concession stand, but it wouldn’t be a “deal breaker” if that wasn’t possible, as long as the kids can play softball.
“I can see in the kids we are practicing with right now, you can tell they are not all mentally strong as they used to be,” Ort said.
Parents of kids in the league have also been required to sign waivers acknowledging the COVID-19 risk.
This is meant to protect the league, the coaches, and the city of Clintonville, Ort said.
Prior to the meeting, City Administrator Sharon Eveland said in a June 9 memo to the council that the state of Wisconsin was recommending against holding youth sports.
“The mayor and staff do not believe that is entirely feasible or warranted, but it should be noted,” Eveland said in the memo. “We have permitted the leagues to use the fields for practices only under restrictions (no bathrooms, no dugouts, no bleachers, and no unnecessary spectators), but have held off on anything larger than that.”
In the memo, Eveland recommended no games be allowed until July 1, and the games must be held according to the above restrictions.
Eveland rescinds memo
When discussing the matter at the council meeting, Eveland told members of the council to disregard her memo.
She said since writing the memo, she had conversations with various people on the subject.
“I do understand where the sports teams are coming from, and I think that with certain restrictions, I don’t think that there is an issue with them playing the games,” Eveland said.
She added that the Waupaca County health order needs to be followed when determining what restrictions should be in place.
At the time of the council meeting, the order from the Waupaca County Health Services limited gatherings to 50 people. That order expired on June 14, and was not renewed, meaning gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed to occur.
Eveland recommended that the council allow baseball and softball games to be played, but allow her to work with athletic organizations to put restrictions in place to ensure safety.
The council approved to authorize the use of ballfields by private entities as long as restrictions in compliance with Waupaca County Health Services’ orders are followed, and to allow the city administrator to work with the teams to follow those restrictions.
After the vote, Eveland thanked the representatives from the athletic organizations for understanding the city’s perspective on the issue, and trying to work as a team to find a suitable solution that works for everybody.