Optimist Park

No one actually said it, but Litchfield City Council’s action June 15 served as a figurative “Play ball!” for baseball and softball players in the city.

The Council unanimously approved returning to the usual permitting process for sales on public property. Issuing the permits had been temporarily discontinued as the city enacted its emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the City Council decided that sales on public property, along with several other items, would be restored as it reopened parts of the city for business.

Council Member Sara Miller said she supported the change, but still thought the city should be a role model of sorts when it comes to encouraging safe practices.

“I am a firm believer in following the orders from the governor,” Miller said, adding that she has witnessed creative gatherings of people that still made it possible to social distance. The City Council also has a responsibility, she said, “that we tell them they should be following the governor’s orders.”

Council Member Darlene Kotelnicki was more bold in her support, saying, “I really don’t know how we could say no to somebody.”

Restoring the sales on public property permit is significant, because it opened the door to concession stand and alcohol sales — the main source of income for softball tournaments and amateur baseball games.

City Administrator Dave Cziok said that softball tournament organizers still hoped to run their tournament in July, but they likely would not go ahead without the ability to have concession sales. The Litchfield Blues amateur baseball team, which plays at Optimist Park, also hoped to start playing games in July, Cziok said, though their decision to be host to games would not be dependent on the sales on public property permit.

Council Member Ron Dingmann asked whether other permit applications might be in the offing, beyond softball and baseball. Cziok replied that “we don’t know that yet.”

In the end, the council agreed to restore the sales on public property permitting process for all activities, and city staff will deal with the applications as they come.

Kotelnicki asked whether the council should also resolve to allow “softball and baseball games in their leagues.” But Cziok said he didn’t see that as a city administrative function.

“The Blues holding their league is kind of outside of our purview,” Cziok said. “Access to Optimist Park would not be a decision that we would allow them to do or not to do. Right now, the ball is heavily in the Blues and softball folks’ court about what their recommendation is and how they want to proceed.”

Without the governor’s orders regarding large sports gatherings in front of him, Cziok said, “That I’m going to lean on those guys doing what they’re supposed to do.”

It didn’t take long for either the Litchfield Blues or Litchfield Fire Department — organizer of an annual softball tournament — to respond to the decision.

The Blues announced via their Facebook page June 16, “It’s official. We’re back.” The team played its season opener Friday against the Spring Hill Chargers at Optimist Park.

The Litchfield Fire Department also announced early June 16 that its ninth annual softball tournament will go ahead. The 32-team field will compete over the July 10-12 weekend.

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