WESTFIELD – For the first time in more than a year, there will be a tournament season.
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors gave its stamp of approval for a state tournament for high school spring sports. This comes on the heels of the MIAA’s recent decision to allow a postseason sectional tournament this spring.
Westfield High School baseball coach Mike Kennedy said that is welcome news, but acknowledged there is even more anticipation of just picking up a baseball, bat, and glove.
“The kids are just happy to be out playing and we will go from there,” coach Kennedy said. “They were itching to play at the beginning of last season and never got out there. I’m sure they’re just about as ready now.”
It has been nearly two years since several ball players have even participated in a game with the pandemic derailing sports all across the country. “It’s going to be tough for everybody around,” coach Kennedy said. “Last time we saw the freshmen, they were juniors. It’s going to be different. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and watching these guys play ball again.”
Local sports teams are expected to begin a week of spring training in late April with opening day slated one week later.
“It’s going to be a crunch,” Kennedy said. “There are going to be a lot of games in a little bit of time – – and pray for no rain.”
It is often said that when it rains, it pours, but there are now rays of light shining through the dark clouds which have hung over sports for nearly a year.
“I’m glad that the collective work of our Board of Directors, Covid-19 Task Force and Tournament Management Committee has allowed for us to not only have an upcoming spring season, but one which will provide for a sectional and statewide tournament,” MIAA President Jeffrey Ganatino stated in a prepared statement. “It has not been an easy task but it is one that always has the best interests of our student-athletes in mind.”
The Tournament Management Committee is expected to meet to establish the MIAA state tournament schedule over the coming days and weeks.
“Affording our spring season student-athletes a full tournament opportunity is a credit to our Association’s Standing Committees,” MIAA Executive Director Bill Gaine said. “The special nature of this spring tournament structure is that it an opt-in as well as an opt-out opportunity, thus providing member schools to determine their own path.”
Last week, sport-specific modifications for baseball, softball, lacrosse, boys volleyball, tennis, and track and field, among others were approved by the MIAA. Wrestling will require approval from the EEA, MIAA, and PVIAC. Local sports may be subject to approval by local school districts and their respective boards of health.
Spring practices will begin April 26 with games expected in early May.