By D. Mark Mitchell

It appears the light is getting brighter by the day … I am referencing COVID-19 and its effect on all of us, including the sports world. The conversation started to shift toward “opening up life” as I like to say at the end of last week.
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth helped create the “State of Alabama Small Business Emergency Task Force.” The task force is headed by Chairman Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), three State Sens. Chris Elliot (R-Fairhope), Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Garlen Gudger (R-Cullman). three State Reps. Joe Luvvorn (R-Auburn), Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville ) and Kelvin Lawrence (D-Hayneville). Others on the committee include NFIB State Chair Rosemary Elebash, ARHA Executive Director Mindy Harmon, Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt, Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown, Tony Cochran of CK Business Solutions and Stephen McNair of the McNair Historical Preservation in Mobile. Last week, this group sent out their Phase One plan of “Reopen Alabama Responsibly.”
Phase One covers economy and health, which includes barber shops, childcare, entertainment centers, hair salons, healthcare services, medical facilities and pharmacies. Also on that list is the return of recreational activities, which included youth sports.
Naturally, I took a close look at youth athletic activities, which lists baseball and softball.
This section covered coaches and players’ protective measures.
Among the items listed included :
-Ensure equipment is spaced out properly, social distancing in areas where confined (dugouts and seating), limit the uses of team shared equipment, cleaning and sanitizing equipment, strictly monitor the health of all present, encouraging the use of face masks by players and in close contact areas of high traffic
-The facilities should be cleaned frequently and sanitizing areas
-Public Restrooms would be limited to one person at a time
-Set game times and practices to allow additional time for fans and attendees to exit prior to others arriving
-Make sure all safety measures are shared regularly with players, coaches and attendees and
-Each player and coach should have access to gloves and face mask for practice and games.
The task force recommends May 11 as the date to safely resume operating.
In my opinion, these are positive steps to playing sports among other things in life.
No question that changes are needed! The old way is not always the right way.
Some say “you need to get with the times.”
If you are going to be involved in baseball, softball and other sports, you need to understand these changes are best for all. The health and well-being of children and adults should be at the top of everyone’s list.
The date (May 11)the committee set to open youth baseball and softball is a good starting point. There are many items to go over and change but the thought of playing baseball and softball this summer, is exciting!
No question, parents will have questions and concerns about allowing their child to play.
If we all work together and understand the changes are necessary and will be the new normal, I see no problems.
Let’s hope and pray the city will open up our Parks and facilities by May 11 or before. No matter the date, I am excited about the summer.
OHS Football
Opelika High’s football team, like all of us, have been unable to be together for activities. All school activities were canceled when the governor announced school was closed and no activities are allowed.
This is the first time in my life where Opelika, nor any school, could hold spring practice. No one is allowed on school grounds. As I wrote a few weeks back, OHS coaches send workouts to each player to complete on their own.
Coach Erik Speakman released the 2020 schedule. The Bulldogs open in Troup against Callaway on Aug. 21, the following week Opelika travels to Auburn’s Duck Sanford Stadium to play rival Auburn on Aug. 28. Opelika’s first home game is Sept. 4 against the Sidney Lanier Poets in the first region contest. On Sept. 11, Opelika plays at Eufaula in a region game. The Bulldogs host three homes games in a row – Sept. 18 Carver (region), Sept. 25 rival Central comes to Bulldog Stadium and Russell County (region) is the homecoming opponent on Oct. 2. The last three games are against region opponents, Robert E. Lee at Crampton Bowl on Oct. 9, at Valley on Oct. 16 and the last game of the regular season against Park Crossing at Bulldog Stadium Oct. 23.
Opelika will not play the last week of the regular Season. The AHSAA playoffs begin Nov. 6.
OCS Superintendent Neighbors’ Salary is 25th in the State
According to the State Department of Education and confirmed by Opelika City Schools, Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors earns $180,794 in annual salary. Neighbors’ package includes $9,600 per year for vehicle allowance and a four-year contract with a year added each year to keep his contract at four years consistently.
Opelika City Schools have 4,623 students attending school.
The salary ranks 25th among all school Superintendents. Lee County Schools pay Superintendent Mac McCoy $187,168 per year. Lee County has four high school Systems with 9,259 students.
Auburn City Schools Superintendent Cristen Herring is paid $180,000 annually. ACS has a total of 8,890 students.
D. Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.