Friday night at Winway Park saw the return of competitive athletics to Parsons in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SEK Hooks, operating as the Parsons Babe Ruth League 16-18 team this summer, hosted Nowata, Oklahoma in a doubleheader. Nowata won both games 10-9, 12-4.

“It was nice to just be back out there,” SEK Hooks head coach Will Owens said. “Not being able to do anything for two months, we knew it feels like a new normal. We’re just excited to be back. We learned about what kind of athletes we are. We know how to compete.” 

While the Hooks suffered two losses, Owens was happy just to get back on the diamond after going three months without sports. Nowata built an early 10-0 lead in Game 1 before the Hooks trimmed the final deficit to a lone run.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Owens said. “Our pitchers were a little rusty. But once they got that rust knocked off, we could tell what they were capable of. There’s a lot of potential. We’ll be a solid team this summer. So we can’t complain.” 

Players on the Hooks include players from Parsons, Altamont, Cherryvale and other neighboring areas where local youth leagues decided to cancel seasons because of the pandemic.

The Hooks will play a nearly 30-game schedule against a variety of opponents this summer.

“We’re going to operate as a traveling team,” Owens said. “We’re going to try and win ballgames. If every player gets better by the end of the season, then we’ve done our jobs. As long we continue to operate, we’ll keep competing. 

Parsons Babe Ruth League President John Rexwinkle applauded the Hooks’ effort to stitch together a season.

“They’re taking the right approach,” Rexwinkle said. “It’s getting to be cliche, but we’re in uncharted territory. They’re happy we’re playing baseball and getting that opportunity. Unfortunately, some other teams we’d normally be playing weren’t able to field teams. So we’ve been creative to get a schedule together for that team to get some games in.” 

Parsons Babe Ruth, including the Hooks, are still taking various precautions to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus. Fans are asked to socially distance, sunflower seeds are banned and players are asked to bring their own food and drink and not share.

“We’re following the same guidelines as everybody else,” Owens said. “We don’t want kids at practice who are feeling sick. We encourage people to take a shower before they come to practice. We all have to take care of ourselves first. That way, when we get to the field, we can focus on the game of baseball.” 

The league as a whole also held its Opening Day for the entire league on Monday. 

“We haven’t done anything more exceptional than any other organization,” Rexwinkle said. “We just had the opportunity to sit back, wait and let things unfold. Our timeline allowed us to push things back and be more flexible. There’s been a lot that has gone into it. Players and parents have been accommodating. We don’t always have solid answers. But all we can do is assure them that we’re doing what’s best and safest. From Day 1, we’ve been upfront that should the situation change from a public health standpoint, the season could be canceled. The kids’ safety comes before the sport does.” 

Players on the SEK Hooks this year include: Tate Thurman, Jackson Fugate, Kayden Kessler, Chase Langston, Chandler Moore, Pake Morin, Cooper Peak, Gavin Salyers, Andon Searles, Paxton Swanson, Eli Atkins, Harrison Hall, Andrew Jameson, Ethan Pellock, Brady Phillips and Noah Ryan. 

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