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Return of youth sports resonates with Las Vegas coaches

The two words Las Vegas Valley athletes were starting to fear they might not hear again resonated loud and clear after Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Friday announcement that he would be easing restrictions on some local recreational sports effective midnight Friday:

Play ball!

“We’ll use a paper plate for a base and throw a little sand on it, and we’re ready to go,” said Mike Martin, founder and president of the Las Vegas Baseball Academy about guidelines outlining a return to practice, games and tournaments, provided health and safety protocols are met.

Martin said the acclaimed baseball development school shuttered its doors in March because of the coronavirus pandemic before reopening in June with a minimal program.

“There were no fields open, so what we did was just find a (patch of grass) and follow the CDC guidelines as far as all the protocols,” Martin said of a summer in Las Vegas without baseball and softball and other recreational sports.|

The pandemic took a heavy toll on the academy’s bottom line. More important, Martin said, young ballplayers were denied a chance to develop their skills, while some missed out on the chance of a lifetime — a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to play in an affiliated tournament in Cooperstown, New York.

“We take a team back to Cooperstown every year, and that trip was taken away from those kids,” Martin said.

It was pretty much the same story and sacrifices for local youth soccer players.

“We’re super excited just to get the kids back out to play,” said Jim Rasmussen, president of the Las Vegas Sports Academy, an affiliate of Major League Soccer’s youth development program. “Obviously we’ll go through all the details and guidelines to keep everybody safe.”

Youth players are eager to start enjoying sports again, Rasmussen said, speaking for recreational athletes across the valley.

“Hopefully we don’t see an influx of (COVID-19) numbers and we can keep moving in the right direction,” he said.

Sisolak did not announce any guidelines regarding the return of high school sports. He said the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association will oversee that, with assistance from the governor’s office.

The NIAA previously announced its plan to have all competitions played in the spring. NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson released a statement after the governor’s news conference saying NIAA staff, Board of Control members and school district superintendents do not intend to react or comment further at this time.

“It is imperative that members of the NIAA’s various leadership groups have time to analyze, evaluate and discuss this directive — within each group and/or as a collective whole — before issuing any statement(s) of direction going forward,” the statement read.

As it stands, winter sports of basketball, bowling, flag football and wrestling will begin Jan. 14 and end by Feb. 20. The fall season of cross country, football, girls golf, girls volleyball, soccer and tennis is scheduled for March 4 to April 10, and the spring season of baseball, boys golf, boys volleyball, softball, swimming and diving, and track and field will run from April 15 to May 22.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter. Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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