Coronavirus concerns shut down Salinas Valley sports

Programs suspended through at least March 31

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Gonzales Little League Players
The Marlins and Giants farm teams from Gonzales Little League share high fives after their first game of the season earlier this month. All District 9 Little League programs have since been shut down amid concerns over the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Michael Ramirez)

SALINAS VALLEY — From Little League baseball to fitness programs to enhanced fitness for adult seniors, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted the day-to-day sports activities of youth and adults alike in South Monterey County and beyond.

Beginning with the suspension of Little League programs, to Friday’s school closures for all Monterey County as well as their extracurricular sports programs until at least March 31, COVID-19 has changed the lives of local youth and their families.

South County YMCA Director Joe Gonzales stated that youth and adult programs would be suspended to follow YMCA and state directives.

“We just completed the youth basketball season on Friday and we were ready to start the soccer season really soon,” Gonzales said. “Our gym will continue to be open, but there will be no team programs offered until the suspension is lifted. Classes like Kids Zumba and senior citizen exercise programs will also be closed during this time. We conduct our business here in the City of Soledad and we want to do what we can to provide our full services as soon as we can for all of South County.”

With Little League programs shutting down throughout the area, youth from 4 to 13 years old are unable to participate in America’s pastime. Gonzales resident and Little League coach Peter Aguilar has had a hard time explaining the situation to his 5-year-old son Liam, who plays for the Marlins Farm team.

“Yes, it’s bad,” Aguilar said. “I still haven’t been able to put together the words to try to explain to the 5-year-old why he suddenly has no practices or games with his teammates.”

On Friday, the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s (PCAL) Board of Managers voted unanimously to suspend league games for the entire league. This action means that all spring sports teams will suspend their season out of concern for the health and safety of their students and school communities.

“All league schools and the league will continue to monitor the situation over the next several weeks to determine what ongoing school and league actions best serve the needs of our schools and their communities,” said PCAL Commissioner Tim McCarthy.

Just a few hours before the PCAL decision, the Monterey County Office of Education and the Monterey County school district superintendents along with the Monterey County Health Department decided to close all public schools and extracurricular programs in Monterey County until the end of March. School districts were asked to communicate with their families regarding possible extended closures.

Last week Gonzales, Soledad, Greenfield and King City high schools had multiple baseball and softball games, tennis matches, swim meets and track and field invitational meets postponed. The baseball season was just one week of play from starting divisional play in the PCAL, and the girls softball teams were slated to begin divisional play next week.

The King City track team had just began divisional meets last week at Carmel, while Gonzales, Greenfield and Soledad were starting their divisional meets on March 24. So far, at least four track invitational meets have been canceled.

Swim programs at Soledad and King City as well as the boys tennis team had started divisional competitions last week.

According to Gonzales City Manager Rene Mendez, the City of Gonzales Recreation Program has postponed youth programs.

“We’re postponing the softball program that was supposed to start up,” Mendez said. “The girls in that program were going to play games against teams from the cities of Soledad, Greenfield and King City. Our mini t-ball program was scheduled to start, but as of now we have to suspend that program. We will also be suspending the after-school program that takes place at the Toots Vosti Recreation Center. Our hope is that things can return to normal in the next few weeks.”

The King City and San Ardo Boxing Clubs will not be practicing or competing in boxing shows because of COVID-19, as per the directives of USA Boxing and the City of King.

“USA Boxing, who governs our boxing clubs, will not be sanctioning any boxing shows because of the coronavirus,” said Rodolfo Tapia, head coach of the boxing clubs. “The City of San Ardo and the King City Recreation Center have also asked that we not run our programs during this tough time.”

King City High Mustangs Baseball Players
Baseball players from the King City Mustangs are mostly in uniform for an impromptu practice day after their game against Templeton was canceled at the last minute. Sporting events are among the many cancellations, and some youth teams such as the Mustangs might not get to play for the rest of the season. (Photo by Sean Roney)