'Let them play' rallies held across California to protest COVID-19 restrictions on youth sports

Dozens of rallies took place across California on Friday to protest pandemic-related restrictions on youth sports, hoping to encourage state leaders to allow high school sports to resume. 

High schools like Troy High School in Fullerton participated with the baseball team. The head varsity baseball coach Jason Jamison said their program has been impacted since March.

"Since March 13, 2020, we have been unable to either scrimmage, have an inner squad, have a practice game, compete at any level on a high school field as our high school program," he said.

He said he has 52 athletes within his program at all three levels. On Wednesday, only 35 players showed up to practice.

"I know there's a small number of those players who didn't attend whose families are being very cautious about the virus and are doing their best to stay home and away from other people, and I applaud them for that. However, there are many players in my program that are just choosing not to come to practice because they're demoralized. They haven't been able to participate in the sport that they love," said Jamison.

Jamison has a son at the high school who plays two sports as well.

"My son is very self-motivated and he's taken it upon himself during this lockdown to continue to maintain his physical conditioning and his weight lifting but there's no doubt, he's demoralized. When we sit down at the dinner table and we talk about the future, where do you want to go to college? Do you want to play ball in college, do you want to be a two-sport athlete in college? What are you looking forward to as far as sports go? He doesn't have a lot of answers," he said.

Jamison was rallying to save the baseball season but said he wants to see all high school sports return.

"There are six states in our country that don't even have a plan for the fall football season to take place this year and California's one of those six states so my voice today, I want to be heard for the baseball program, yet I'm speaking on behalf of all sports programs," said Jamison.

Jamison also spoke about the new NCAA rules.

"The NCAA, they have rules now that is extending eligibility for college athletes and giving them an additional year because of the loss of last year so what happens is essentially the senior class from this year from a collegiate standpoint, they're not necessarily needed because all of the colleges already have all of their athletes," said Jamison.

Jamison said the new rules will have impacts.

"For the athletes who are seniors this year, who are D-I, there's going to be a place for them but for the athlete that might have been a D-III or a D-II prospect, or someone who wanted to continue to play at the next collegiate level, they might not be given a chance because of the extra eligibility that's been afforded to the existing college students," he said.

Alec Ochoa, a junior first base and pitcher at the high school, is hoping to be able to play this season.

"Hopefully soon we can get back on that field and play against other people. It's really unfortunate. It's just so much missed time. You only have four years of high school so missing almost two years of that especially if we miss this year would be very unfortunate. It kind of puts a toll on all of us," he said.

Ochoa has dreams of playing baseball in college.

"I've gone my whole life playing baseball so being able to play in college would be a big honor, but the scouts, all these games if we miss it, the scouts won't be able to see us and just missed opportunities. The more opportunities we get, the more talent we're able to show on our field," said Ochoa.

There was another rally held in Chino Hills with athletes from four different schools. Parents are concerned about physical and mental health for their children without sports.

"There's a lot more than just COVID-19, there's the mental health, their ability to grow and express themselves," said Carlos Moran, the father of an athlete.

Coach Jamison said there are ways to play safely in California.

"There have been baseball tournaments in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and in almost every other state. They've been run safely. They've had high attendance. They've been done the right way. Players enter and exit the field with masks. Social distancing is required. Social distancing among fans is required. Wiping down equipment before and after the game is required. We can take the blueprint that other states have used and we can implement it within our state," he said.

The teams are hoping for answers soon on whether or not they'll be able to play this season.

"Everybody is hoping that we can play during some sort of spring season and we have to be complete by the end of the school year which means we have to be done by the end of May so there's no more time left to spend debating, or arguing whether or not we should play. The time is now to come up with a plan, put it in place and allow the athletes to return to their field of choice and safely return to the sports that they love," said Jamison. 

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