The track at Vale High School sat unused by prep athletes for a year but competition will heat up as the spring sports season kicks off. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

VALE – The spring prep sports season kicked off this week but in terms of Covid restrictions not much is going to change.

“The outdoor guidance will be very much like we had in football season,” said Tom Snook, Vale High School athletic director.

Malheur County is now categorized by the state at low risk of Covid, which means outdoor recreation venues are allowed a maximum of 50% capacity. Snook said he doesn’t see that limit to be a problem this spring.

“We will keep an eye on it,” he said.

Most softball and baseball seasons began Tuesday, and games are slated Thursday and Saturday across the region.

Snook said “unless something changes” athletes will be required to wear masks “at all times.”

“Spectators must wear masks,” said Snook.

Covid restrictions will impact dugouts and coaches’ interactions with umpires and pitchers.

For example, the Oregon Health Authority mandates 6 feet of physical distancing, which means teams will need to decide how many players can be inside the dugout. The social distancing will most likely mean players will be lined up along the foul lines or in the bleachers.

Umpires will not handle baseballs or softballs and schools are required to sanitize them and put them back into play while their team is on defense.

Equipment – such as bats, batting helmets and catcher’s gear – can be shared between players but must be sanitized before the next person uses them.

Coaches who want to talk to an umpire about a call must request the time and then approach the foul line because they are restricted from approaching an umpire in fair ball territory. Coaches can still call time and walk out to the pitcher’s mound but no other players can approach.

There will be no handshakes between teams after a game.

The same rules, basically, apply to track and field. Masks must be worn all times and physical distancing measures are required. For the shot put, discus throw and javelin, those who wish to limit contact can provide their own implements and retrieve them after all throws. If athletes can’t provide their own implements, it is recommended the implements be sanitized between each use.

For sprint, hurdle and relay events that are run in lanes, the other lane may be used to assist with social distancing. Runner’s blocks should be disinfected after each heat or race.

At least for now, there will not be any postseason play either.

Ontario, Nyssa and Vale softball teams kicked off their spring season Tuesday.

Vale, Nyssa and Ontario baseball teams also began their season with games Tuesday.

For baseball and softball, between 15 and 17 games are scheduled.

The Vale and Ontario baseball squads wrap their season May 15 while the Nyssa baseball team’s last contest is May 18.

Boys tennis competition for Vale, Ontario and Nyssa began Monday. Girls tennis for Ontario and Nyssa also began Monday and Vale’s first scheduled match is Monday, April 19. The tennis season ends for girls and boys in early and mid-May.

Boys golf competition for Vale and Nyssa began Monday. Boys track for Vale, Nyssa and Ontario began Thursday. Their season ends May 15.

The Oregon School Activities Association is still planning on holding a wrestling and basketball season – set to begin May 17. However, the fate of the season remains in limbo because full-contact indoor sports are still prohibited.

Track and baseball schedules for Adrian and track schedules for Jordan Valley were not available by press time.

News tip? Contact Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

Rules shift again for prep sports spectators

Spring prep sports season in Malheur County likely over

SAFEGUARD YOUR LOCAL NEWS

Take one action today to help the Enterprise grow and do more for the community through accurate, fair reporting.

SUBSCRIBE: A monthly digital subscription is $5 a month.

GIFT: Give someone you know a subscription.

ONE-TIME PAYMENTContribute, knowing your support goes towards more local journalism you can trust.