After speaking to baseball officials and stakeholders involved in delivery of the Victorian Masters, we have reluctantly decided to postpone the event to a later date.
Between players, officials, supporters and local clubs the event attracts something between 400 and 600 people over the weekend. While that may be less than the threshold set by the Australian government for cancellation, and while not all will be at Prince of Wales at any given time – except perhaps on the Sunday – there are other key factors that needed to be considered.
First, as a Masters event, the vast majority of participants fall into what is deemed by health experts to be the most vulnerable demographic - 40 to over 70 years of age. Many of our umpires, club officials and volunteers are in that age grouping. By early reckonings provided to Baseball Australia, the morbidity rate for persons over 60 contracting the disease could be as high as 14.8 % when the virus reaches its peak.
Secondly, although we think of baseball as a non-contact sport, our capacity to provide a safe environment for the Carnival is seriously compromised by the nature of the activity – in its shared use of baseballs, bats, helmets and other gear - and of this particular event, which is built so fundamentally around active group engagement and social interaction.
Thirdly, the host club, volunteers, some umpires and some players have expressed understandable reservation about the event going ahead next weekend. A Masters organiser for the Ballarat Royals Baseball Club today made this comment:
“It saddens me to write this, but unfortunately we at the Royals have serious concerns about the appropriateness and then our ability to provide all event services next weekend.
Given the worldwide shutdown of all events that include personal contact we would strongly recommend that we reschedule the Masters tournament to later in the year.
I have had numerous calls from our volunteers concerned about the event and their own safety.”
Before outlining the details of a projected reschedule of the event, I should stress that Baseball Victoria and Baseball Australia – who both contacted me as I was writing this release - fully support postponement because, in their words, “it is simply the right thing to do.”
A senior Baseball Australia official this evening informed me that if we had not taken the action that we have, then sanctioning approval would have immediately been withdrawn, negating all of our legal protections and insurance entitlements.
For me, for the local clubs, for the officials, the players and for all of the people who contribute to this remarkable event, it was a disappointing and distressing decision to have to make. However, there was really no other option given the existential threat of this virus to public health – especially within the Masters community and especially because the virus is likely still some weeks from fully impacting the Australian population.
It is still early days and nothing is yet decided, but there seems a potential window to re-schedule the event for the weekend of 18, 19 and 20 September or part thereof. This is the first weekend of Victorian School Holidays and the published AFL Preliminary Final Weekend (although that might change).
That would fall between the completion of winter baseball (assuming that it goes ahead) and the start of summer baseball projected to start in the first weekend of October.
Although there will be no daylight saving and the early spring weather might be dicey, it could be really opportune timing as we emerge from our Ballarat winter and can hopefully celebrate this COVID-19 shit being in decline by then.
Baseball Victoria and Baseball Australia are both supportive of that timing and they have agreed to be flexible in making allowance for players who have paid either full registration or tournament registration for the postponed event, so that participants incur no extra expense for something beyond their control.
I appreciate that postponement of the 2020 Victorian Masters will cause degrees of financial loss as teams seek to negotiate arrangements on flights and accommodation. That was a consideration in making this call a week out from the event rather than later. Nevertheless, most parties will take a hit.
I will seek to confirm dates for a rescheduled Victorian Masters during the next month or so. In the meantime, I would very much appreciate your feedback on the proposed timing or on any other relevant matter.
If your team is not interested, undecided or simply not able to play at an alternative time later this year, please contact me to arrange a refund of entry money (which will likely carry a deduction of $ 100 per team given the substantial amount that we have outlaid in accounts and advance payments).
Should the Carnival not be able to proceed later this year, then all entries (less the $ 100 per team) will be refunded and we will look towards firing up again in 2021!
I will keep everyone informed of developments over coming weeks and months.
Best wishes to all.
Kingsley Collins (Administrator)
13 March 2020