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Pandemic strikes out Orillia slo-pitch season

League cancels 2020 season but hopes to host tournaments later in summer

Local slo-pitch players who were holding onto hope for a 2020 season are now forced to let go.

On Wednesday, the Orillia Slo-Pitch League announced the cancellation of the season due to COVID-19.

League president Mike Borrelli did everything he could to get players back on the diamonds this season. He twice pushed back the deadline to make a final decision on the league's fate and was in constant communication with Slo-Pitch National president Trish Harrow for advice. The provincial government's restrictions on gatherings and the City of Orillia’s decision to keep diamonds closed until at least July 5 have made it impossible for slo-pitch players to return this season.

“It kills me to have to make this decision, but we are not going to be able to play with all the restrictions that are in place,” Borrelli said.

This is the first time in Borrelli’s more than 25-year tenure as league president that he has had to cancel a season. Although he feels the province is doing a good job of keeping people safe during the pandemic, he believes it would have been safe to allow recreational sports such as slo-pitch in Phase 2 of the government's reopening plans.

“One hundred per cent. I don’t know one person that plays in our group that has COVID. We don’t travel. We would abide by the guidelines of wearing masks and social distancing,” Borrelli said.

He believes local slo-pitch players will miss more than just the game this summer.

“I think adult sports — especially slo-pitch because it’s a gathering of mostly adult friends and you are playing against people you know from our city — is a social release for people from everyday working, paying taxes and raising their kids,” he said.

“It’s a release to go to the ball diamond for an hour and 20 minutes. An everyday stress release is offered by playing sports.”

Despite the cancellation of the 2020 season, Borrelli is hopeful about running tournaments in late July and early August.

“If they open things up and I get demand, I will run, like, six tournaments from here till the end of the season,” he said.

In a statement posted on the Orillia Slo-Pitch League Facebook page, Borrelli and his league executives thanked teams and players for their patience during the past few months.