Adult softball

Adult softball women’s league team, Telluride Tire won second place in the league and the famous PBR Beer Can trophy in 2019. The future of the 2020 season is clouded in uncertainty. (Photo courtesy of Megan Honea)

Play ball!

Or not.

For the more than 400 men and women who take part in the Town of Telluride’s Adult Softball League, the first games would have taken place over a week ago. But Town Park’s grandstands are empty, the dink of the aluminum bat is missing and the recycle bins are empty of crushed cans of cheap beer and White Claw. Gee thanks, COVID-19 pandemic.

Ryan McGovern is the recreation supervisor for the town’s Parks and Recreation department. A visit to that department’s website lets the visitor know, in bold red letters, that through May 31 “all programming offered by Telluride Parks & Recreation and hosted at Telluride Parks & Recreation Department facilities are canceled until further notice,” and that registration and info on adult softball, youth travel baseball, the pool, swim team, and swim lessons “are delayed until further notice.”

It’s the “further notice” part that has officials giving the best information they have, which is, as McGovern said, “I really don’t know.”

What he does know is that Monday, when Colorado officials make an announcement about the next phase of public health orders related to the pandemic, things could change. Or not.

But it’s not as if McGovern and others in his shoes in the nation’s summer rec leagues are doing nothing. 

“We’re working with agencies across the country to figure out ways to allow for a season,” McGovern said. 

That could mean a shortened season or potentially having the adult softball and soccer seasons overlap. If — big if — the softball season happens at all in this era of public health orders, compliance with social distancing measures and crowd size limits will likely be in place.

“We’re looking at what makes participants comfortable in the case they allow us  (to run the program),” McGovern said.

Local officials must heed state and county public health orders, orders that can only be made more, not less, restrictive.

What McGovern can say is that any softball action in Town Park will be much different than the usual, raucous, convivial scene that happens at Warner and Bear Creek Fields from May through July.

“It won’t be the same,” he said. “We won’t see the same type of crowds and there will be less contact among players.”

Or, the season could be canceled outright. And those are words avid players do not want to hear.

Megan Honea would have been playing her 8th season with Telluride Tire this year. Softball is a deeply ingrained part of her life in Telluride. Through softball, Honea said she met all her friends, her partner and even got job offers through the immense web of social interactions that the Town Park softball scene fosters. She’s played softball in other places, but nowhere, she said, is the level of interest and participation so high as it is in Telluride.

“For an all women’s league and for women in this community, it’s incredibly unprecedented,” she said. “This is a tiny town and we field eight or nine  (women’s) teams.”

Should the season be canceled, the tone of Honea’s summer will take on a different hue.

“I’m going to have to re-evaluate my priorities. With 10 weeks of softball, I know what I’m doing every day after work,” she said. “I think it would be a huge blow for the mental health of the community. Town will lose some of its cohesiveness.”

Men’s league player, Teddy Errico, shares similar concerns about the potential of removing one of Telluride’s biggest social scenes from the summer calendar. Errico, who plays for men’s A-league powerhouse, Demon Sweat, said there are people he only sees in the summer during games in Town Park. 

“The social stuff alone is brutal,” Errico said. “It would put a big dent in my summer. It will leave a hole that will never be filled.”

Indeed, on any given summer night at the ball fields, it’s a family-friendly, vibrant scene that plays host to dogs, kids, coolers brimming with adult beverages (cans only) and a fleet of cruisers parked willy-nilly. The stands are filled with boyfriends, girlfriends, grandparents, co-workers and often, curious and bemused visitors within a stone’s throw of their campsites in the nearby campground. Though unknown as of press time Friday, the expected announcement from state officials Monday will not likely permit such gatherings.

Errico’s love for the game matches the enjoyment he gets from being part of the Town Park social scene. Before each game, he slings his bat bag over his shoulder and rides his cruiser through town to the park.

“It’s fun to feel like a little kid pedaling to the park,” he said. “I love playing. At my age, you know one year will be your last.”

Honea, though unwilling to contemplate a summer without softball has an eye to the future should 2020 get called out at home.

“The 2021 season will be amazing,” she said.