Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on Health Care, convened a virtual roundtable today about youth baseball and softball leagues safely resuming play.
Joining Senator Toomey at the roundtable, which examined the importance of, and best practices for, youth sports, were Major League Baseball's Baseball and Softball Development Executive Vice President and former Los Angeles Angels general manager Tony Reagins, softball superstar Jennie Finch, Little League president Stephen Keener, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a physician and public health expert, and the greatest shortstop in Philadelphia Phillies history, Jimmy Rollins.
Select quotes from the participants of the roundtable are below. You can watch the event in its entirety here.
Senator Pat Toomey
"The findings and the data lend themselves to the conclusion that, I think anyway, that we can resume youth recreation, and we can do it safely, especially if we continue the commonsense practices that we know reduce the rate of transmission. And with summer right around the corner, this means that that time-honored, American tradition of youth baseball and youth softball, with all the health and developmental benefits that come with them, should be available to our boys and girls. I have a ten-year-old son, and if we could resume little league baseball where I live, I would sign him up tomorrow."
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Program on Medical Outcomes at the Stanford University School of Medicine
"If you can design appropriate safety protocols, youth baseball and youth softball are the absolute perfect place to start thinking about resuming sports, for lots of reasons I'll get in to. But first, the nature of the sport itself, you have social distancing on the field imposed almost by the rules of the sport. So, I think that lends itself to making it an ideal case.
"It's very unlikely that kids will pass the COVID-19 infection to their parents or to adults. It almost always runs the other direction. I'll just give you one study, there's a study done in Iceland where some scientists sequenced the genome of every single COVID-19 virus that they found and they sampled I think 12 to 15 percent of the population. What they look for is mutations in those genes of the virus. From the mutation patterns you can tell who passed the virus to whom, in the statistical sense. What they concluded was that there was no evidence at all of any infections passed from kids to parents or other adults. Zero. Now there may be some cases we can point to say that there is some. I can't say it is literally zero. There is always a possibility. What we can say pretty certainly is that it is much less likely than the other way around where adults pass the virus to kids."
Tony Reagins, Executive Vice President for Baseball and Softball Development for Major League Baseball (MLB)
"This pandemic has taken -- has taken proms, has taken graduations, has taken economic capabilities of parents and families. It's taken from America's youth. And what it has done is also re-enforced the importance of, and significance of, sport particularly baseball and softball and how it is the fabric of our young people today. They want to play. Young people want to play. They're clamoring for that social interaction that they had in school with their classmates. They have a strong desire to have that emotional bonding that they experience while they're on the diamond. They yearn for the opportunity to be with their friends on a daily basis in practice and get out there and play the game. So there is a deep desire to get out there as it relates to young people and get back on the diamond."
Jennie Finch, Youth Softball Ambassador for MLB
"I am so thankful, and now that I am a mother of three kids, I see the values that are instilled that transcend way beyond any playing field. That is what I am all about instilling and driving into our kids - teamwork, leadership, discipline, sacrifice. All of those things that sport teaches you.
"I said before I was apprehensive and especially now after hearing Dr. Jay speak, I'm ready to go. But we did go out there and to see my kids jumping around, so pumped and excited and the life instilled in them again. Obviously safety is first, you know? I am a parent, I'm a mom. Therefore, we're going to move forward, obviously. We're hopefully going to get back to where it's been. It's going to be a changed new normal, but at the same time, you know, if everyone is on the same board and the communication is there and those steps of safety are taken, then I do feel comfortable in that and I'm so thankful for this roundtable because it is a huge step in moving forward and figuring out and collaborating with everyone involved in all areas of the field in order to get these kids back out there, around their teammates playing."
Jimmy Rollins, three-time MLB All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and the all-time hits leader for the Philadelphia Phillies
"Why not be outdoors? We wear masks, if we're around people we understand social distancing, and the importance of PPE. But we don't want to stop living our lives. We don't want to stop having our normalities from existing. And what's happening right now, none of that exists. We're sitting there watching reruns and watch the news. We hear about the negative things, but we should be focusing on what we can do instead of what we can't do, and working on getting back to what we can do and aren't doing."
Stephen Keener, President and CEO of Little League International
"Obviously, this pandemic has had a devastating impact on families, businesses, communities, and obviously youth sports. From Little League International's perspective, we've taken the position that we wanted to try to put the importance of youth sports in perspective. And by that I mean, understanding that, one thing that's been a very stark reminder to us is how important little league baseball or little league softball are to communities because we've been hearing from our constituents and our affiliates since the middle of March about getting back on the field.
"Our job is to really pull as many resources together as we can and provide them to our constituents or our affiliate programs. And so we spent a lot of time consulting with people...We had access to some other medical professionals, certainly the CDC, and we've talked with numerous public health officials both at the state level and the federal level. And essentially what we've come up with is a best practices of resuming play when it's safe to do so. And we just launched that actually yesterday so your timing is very good. We actually sent it out to all of our programs yesterday and it addresses when you get the green flag from your state and local health officials saying it's okay to start these types of activities then here's the model here's the program, here's all the best practices that are that we're going to provide you so that you can go out and do this as safely as possible."