May 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

High school games going on in OC without fans, but how will the restriction be enforced?

Irvine High’s baseball team attracted a big crowd for a CIF playoff game last season. ((Photo courtesy Jim Tomlin, For OC Sports Zone)

It has been a week that professional and college organizations have had to make major decisions about whether to play games in light of the concerns about the coronavirus.

Most, such as the NBA and the NCAA, have opted to postpone or cancel seasons.

High school districts in Orange County have also had to make tough decisions about athletics, Some, like Huntington Beach, Newport Mesa and Capo Unified have decided to postpone athletic events for an indefinite period of time.

Others, including Orange Unified and Irvine Unified, have opted to continue the high school games but without spectators.

But that’s not as simple as it sounds.

IUSD Athletic Director Mark Cunningham said Thursday the district “strongly discourages attendance. We would hope these guidelines would not be ignored by our communities.”

Volleyball matches involving Irvine teams continued this week but most baseball and softball games have been postponed because of rain so the question of whether fans would be turned away at those games hasn’t arisen.

But when the rain finally clears and the games resume, presumably next week, school officials will apparently have to restrict or limit the number of fans. It’s a bit easier to limit fans at two facilities in Irvine. Ryan Lemmon Stadium is an enclosed facility which Woodbridge’s baseball team plays in. Bill Barber Park is also enclosed and his the home for Woodbridge softball.

But most of the other Irvine high school baseball and softball teams play at facilities that are open. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a ruling Wednesday suggesting that groups of more than 250 not be allowed to gather during the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s going to be common sense,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think I’ve been to a baseball game in my 32 years at University High school where there were more than 250 people. If you’re talking about a basketball game or potentially a big volleyball game, then you may run into that problem.”

As for whether fans would be turned away from baseball games, it’s not totally clear.

“It’s going to be up to the individual school sites determine how they are going to prevent that (fans attending) from happening,” Cunningham said. “We’re just trying to follow the guidelines that came from the governor, and as far as the implementation of it, we’re going to do the best job we can not ever having dealt with this before.

“We’re going to do the best job we can to make sure we aren’t putting anybody at risk as far as the coronavirus is concerned.”

Woodbridge Athletic Director Rick Gibson said he wasn’t sure yet how the no fan rule would work in baseball and softball.

“The direction has not been given, 250 fans, am I going to stand there with a clicker and click on it? I don’t think so,” Gibson said. “We played at Ryan Lemmon Stadium the other night and it was pretty crowded, but I don’t think there were 250 fans there, but I don’t know what it holds.”

Boys volleyball matches take place in the spring and it may not be as difficult to limit spectactors since the matches are in gymnasiums. Crean Lutheran Athletic Director Eric Olson said Thursday no fans would be admitted into the match with Woodbridge Thursday night.

Larger track meet invitationals, which attract a large number of athletes, could be postponed, Cunningham said. The Irvine Invitational, scheduled for this weekend, has already been postponed.

“Our coaches will be directed that they will not be allowed to go to a large invitational and if we’re hosting it, we’re going to not host it,” Cunningham said.

There will also be precautions for athletes and coaches who are being advised not to shake hands during the games.

“Maybe just verbal congratulations,” Gibson said.

Gibson warned that the situation is fluid and could change at any time,

“We continue on when things are going on around us,” he said. “We adapt and move forward, so that’s what we’ve been doing. We’re not hiding anything. When kids ask questions, we’re answering what we know. But it’s been moving so quickly.

“Obviously we want what’s best for our Woodbridge community as we do for anybody else.”

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com