Twin Tiers Pride

The Twin Tiers Academy 9U baseball team celebrated with their trophies after winning the Southtowns League championship last summer.

OLEAN — The continuing coronavirus pandemic forced the Twin Tiers Baseball Academy to cancel its 2020 home summer tournaments, but that hasn’t stopped Twin Tiers teams from getting games in.

In June, when Twin Tiers originally planned to hold two Olean tournaments, guidance from the state said competitive tournaments requiring travel could not be held. But now the academy’s travel teams are participating in one-off games (and doubleheaders) in the state and in adjoining Pennsylvania counties.

Twin Tiers’ 10-and-under (10U) team plays Sunday Forness Field 6 for a doubleheader at 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. The same day, a 14U team is playing on Forness 2. The 10U team also plays Tuesday (6:30 p.m.) and Wednesday (6 p.m.) at Forness 6. Twin Tiers also has a 12U team in action in Niagara Falls this weekend.

“We ended up having to cancel our tournaments, which were planned in June,” Twin Tiers board member Tony Capito. “One was for a younger age group and one was for an older age group.

“What we’re doing right now is we’re arranging games with other travel teams, sometimes we travel to their sites, sometimes they travel to our sites.”

Capito said Twin Tiers has three teams scheduled to play in a total of five tournaments in late July or August.

“But again, that’s subject to review also,” he said. “If the pandemic were to jump, who knows what would happen. But at this junction, that’s where we’re at. Those are all in New York State, but not local.”

Currently teams in age groups from 9-13 play for Twin Tiers. A total of 121 kids enrolled in the academy, with 65 playing travel baseball.

“Our whole premise is to provide an atmosphere for these kids to learn and progress, get to know the game,” Capito said.

Twin Tiers is relying on contacts made from tournaments in previous years to set up games throughout the summer.

“What we’re going through is a situation where games are being created as we go,” he said. “As soon as you find a willing partner, over the years we’ve developed contacts, we call those folks and see if they’re interested in participating, wandering down to Olean or having us wander to their site and play a couple games.”

While New York considers baseball (along with softball and soccer) a moderate-risk sport, the games carry some social distancing guidelines, including no high-fives. Capito said the board asks coaches to notify at least one board member of a scheduled game so they can attend and make sure the team is following proper protocols.

Capito said he doesn’t view the social distancing guidelines as “rigid” or “restrictive.”

“Usually the masks are voluntary, you can’t really enforce that, but we do encourage social distancing and we do encourage the parents to be as far removed as they can be from the dugout,” Capito said. “Usually there’s no more than three or four kids in the dugout at a time, all spaced. Equipment is not shared, meaning we don’t swap gloves, we don’t have multiple kids catching in a game: if you assign a catcher, he better have his own gear. There’s no helmet sharing, no bat sharing. Everybody pretty much has their own equipment and everybody is pretty much encouraged to stay six-to-eight feet apart.”