Zach Mendes finally has the green light to use his new baseball cleats.
The 11-year-old Marion native wasn’t allowed to break out his new kicks, not even for a private lesson. Not until there was a chance he’d have the opportunity to use them in a game.
“I was begging my dad to wear my cleats,” Mendes said.
His father, Nate Mendes, told Zach the good news. He and his Tri-Town Barbershop teammates were clear to start practice with Old Rochester Youth Baseball set to begin its 2020 season.
“The funny part is, we ordered cleats and I said, ‘You know, no sense of breaking the cleats and if we’re not going to get to use them, I’m going to have to return them and get you new cleats for next year’ because they won’t fit him next year,” Nate said. “So we were actually doing some workouts in the yard and out on the field, just one on one. And I told him, ‘No, you can’t wear your cleats to the workout. You have to wait until we know we’re playing baseball. And then he came home (one day) and I said, ‘Hey, guess what? We’re playing baseball. You can wear your cleats.’ He was excited.’
For Zach, the most exciting part about the season starting is the actual game action. While others are happy to play the game they love again, some are more excited about the chance to hang out with other kids for the first time in a while.
“I’m happy we can get back together with my friends to play baseball games,” eight-year-old Rochester native Sawyer Devoll said.
Sawyer’s 11-year-old brother (and Zach Mendes’ teammate) James, feels similarly.
“You learn a lot of new things every day, and you get to meet some new kids, too,” said James Devoll.
The season’s start is also a relief for the parents of the players. With schools closing their doors and switching over to virtual learning, their kids had to adjust in more ways than one.
“I think everything has been really hard on these kids; the psychological impact of losing the last four months of school and not being able to see their friends,” said Arthur Parks, a Marion native who coaches the Marion Dental Associates team. “I’ve been told by a number of people that, of all my years coaching, I’ve never seen the kids so excited to start practice.
“(My son Nick) actually said to us at one point, I think it was in May, ‘I really want to go back to school.’ That’s when we, as parents, we really saw that these kids need to be with their friends, they need to be playing, they need to be doing what kids do.”
And that’s exactly what Parks’ 12-year-old son Nick is looking forward to most: doing what kids do.
“It’s really nice because I get to see people that I know and just get out and have fun,” Nick Parks said. “I’ve only been able to talk to (my friends) on the phone and not see them in person.”
The 2020 ORYB season did not come together overnight. While the league is allowed to commence play as the state goes through its phases of reopening, everyone still has to take the proper precautions.
“I was watching the governor’s daily message out to everyone and, as he was proceeding forth with the protocols and everything that he wanted to put out, it just gave me continuous hope,” ORYB president Peter Vieira said. “I would talk to our board on a regular basis, letting them know what was happening and that this is really going to happen provided that we, as a state, continuously are able to follow and fight the COVID situation. So, all we did was just regularly follow protocol and it put us into a position to succeed.”
With practices well underway, the season is set to start on Monday, June 29, with the Minor League division kicking things off. Their games will be played on Mondays and Wednesdays, while the Major division will have games on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The regular season will last for 12 weeks for those divisions. T-Ball and the Farm division will last 11 weeks and hold games on weekends only.
“I was amazed at how quickly it came together,” said Mike Devoll, Sawyer and Jake’s father. “I think that’s a testament to Peter Vieira and the board. They’ve been doing a lot of planning behind the scenes. And, lo and behold, both my kids had two practices the very first week and we haven’t looked back.”
By Nick Friar