TEXARKANA, Ark. — Local youth sports make up the fabric of Texarkana — a cornerstone of such.
The Texarkana Arkansas Baseball Association, Texarkana Texas Dixie Baseball and Texarkana Soccer Association have elected to postpone the start of their season due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.
TABA has around 700 players in its league, and TTDB has about 750 players in its league. With such substantial numbers between players, fans, coaches and spectators, extra precautions will have to be taken once league okay begins.
On the Arkansas-side, Jackie Kirkland serves as president of TABA.
"When the pandemic first broke, we tried to get as much information out to our coaches as we could," Kirkland said. "We already held our draft so the coaches knew the kids that would be on their team. What we wanted to do was get all the proper information out to our coaches from our commissioners. We informed everyone that our season would be temporarily suspended. At that point, it was until April 4, because that's what the Dixie national office handed down. Shortly after that, the governor of Arkansas shut down all the schools in Arkansas. His school closure has been extended until April 17 I believe, so our direction from Dixie is to follow the local and state officials suggestions and guidelines.
"The CDC has placed a limitation on how many people you can have together. With it being only 10 people, we decided to shut down practices, team meetings and everything of that nature. We're kinda just waiting for the government to decide whether we're okay or if we're safe to play. Who knows when that will be."
On the Texas-side, Jeremy Boykin serves as president of TTDB. He and his board are following the proper protocol during these times of uncertainty.
"Hopefully we'll be able to play but currently everything is suspended for two weeks," Boykin said. "We're going to follow whatever decision Dixie Baseball has for us. I'm sure it's going to be the safest decision for everyone involved. Obviously, they're going to consider the safety of the kids because that's what it's all about. Either way, if they decide we're not going to pursue district and state tournaments, but as long as the city allows it, we would like to have a season.
"We have a board of directors and we run our league as such. That's the beauty of everything, we have 13 people who have decades of experience or they have kids that are actually playing. This is not a situation that any of us have been presented with before. However, we're going to handle it as sensible as we can. We know we have some kids who only play baseball. We're going to try to appease those kids when this thing blows over."
The Dixie Youth Regional World Series was scheduled to be held at Ed Worrell Memorial Park later this summer. Kirkland and his staff are working with the Dixie national office to figure out the proper changes that will have to be made for rescheduling.
"If we keep pushing the start of the season back, we may have to change the initial date for the World Series," Kirkland said. "We've kicked around ideas about what we want to do for our kids locally, whether that's playing less games or possibly playing in the fall months. No one has made a official word about what is next at this point.
"We're hoping with the social distancing and the vaccines out there, with the combination of those two, the kids will get back in school and we may still have a chance to salvage the season. Obviously, if the kids aren't able to go to school, then they shouldn't be piled up at a ballpark. Dixie has said they'll be lenient with leagues and their scheduling during this time period."
TSA is operated under the Arkansas Soccer Association, and per the Texarkana Soccer Association's Facebook page, the Arkansas Soccer Association is suspending all soccer-related activities statewide through April 17, due to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's declaration that all school districts be closed until that time. The Arkansas Soccer Association will re-evaluate the situation in the next one to two weeks to determine if a further suspension is warranted.