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The Sports Report: Youth sports in the time of coronavirus

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell and let’s take a look at youth sports.

Jack Harris on youth sports and the coronavirus: The guidelines called for parents to give one another space. For players to limit physical interaction. For coaches to stand farther away during huddles and mound visits. For baseball to be played at a safe social distance.

But during a recent travel tournament for 14-year-olds at the Texas Rangers spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz. — one that included 17 California-based teams and mirrored so many other youth sporting events making their return around the country in recent weeks — most parents still clustered together in tiny pockets of shade, many players still slapped hands between at-bats, and only a handful of attendees donned masks during a blistering summer afternoon.

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If not for a plastic shield in front of the snack bar, it would have been easy to forget there was any pandemic at all.

“We try to make sure that people will follow [rules] to the extent we can,” said Brad Clement, CEO of Perfect Game USA, the organization that staged the event in Arizona. “But because it is uncharted, it’s impossible to know for sure.”

Though a challenge for all sports, this compliance conundrum has become particularly pertinent in the largely self-governed world of youth sports — where widespread testing requirements are impractical; oversight varies widely from tournament to tournament; and coaches, players and parents are typically trusted to follow guidelines on their own.

“There’s no governing authority in youth sports,” said Jon Solomon, editorial director of the sports and society program at the Aspen Institute, which has closely studied the pandemic’s effects on youth sports. “There are a lot of well-intentioned sports organizations that have put out really thoughtful guidelines and rules for their specific sport and sports in general. But it’s still up to each organization to apply it as they see fit on the ground.”

Critics have called into question whether youth sports are truly safe to return, especially as national COVID-19 cases continue to rise. They fear the industry is returning too fast, that financial factors and parental pressure are taking precedence over best possible practices.

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LAKERS

Tania Ganguli talked to some players as to why the aren’t putting social justice messages on their jersey: When Anthony Davis considered the prospect of placing a social justice message on the back of his jersey, he felt conflicted.

On one hand, the Lakers star wanted to support equality and speak out in favor of racial justice. On the other hand, the name Davis means something to him, and representing his family mattered. He didn’t come to the decision lightly, but Davis stuck with his last name.

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“Just holding my family name and representing the name on the back to go through this process and my name and people who’ve been with me through my entire career to help me get to this point,” Davis said. “While still kind of bringing up things that we can do for social injustice. Some guys chose to, some guys chose not. We’ll have a ton of ways to kind of represent what we stand for.”

Davis isn’t alone in his decision. While a majority of players around the league have chosen to use one of the 29 approved slogans the NBA provided in an effort to show support for social justice movements, a handful of players, including several stars, have chosen not to use a league- and union-approved message. During their first few days in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, they have shared some of the reasons why.

DODGERS

Bill Shaikin on the Dodgers: Your real self might not be able to enjoy a game at Dodger Stadium this season, but your virtual self can.

The Dodgers are the latest team to join the cutout craze: Submit a photo and the team will turn it into a cutout and display it in a seat all season. If the camera locks in on just the right spot, you could see your face at a game while you watch on television.

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The Dodgers will hold a presale for season ticket holders Tuesday afternoon, with cutouts available to the public Wednesday.

The team is charging either $149 or $299 for the season, depending on location, with proceeds going to the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. The $149 cutouts will be displayed on the field and loge levels, with the $299 cutouts in the seats most likely to be seen on television: the dugout club behind home plate and the new “home run” seats immediately behind the outfield wall.

This date in sports

Compiled by John Scheibe:

The Angels sail into the All-Star break with a two-game lead in the American League West on this date in 1979 when Bobby Grich hits a two-run, two-out ninth inning home run to beat Ron Guidry and the New York Yankees 5-4 on a Sunday afternoon at Anaheim Stadium.

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Grich’s 19th home run of the season caps an Angels comeback from being down 4-0 to Guidry, the 1978 Cy Young Award winner, and it is the team’s 13th win in 16 games. The night before, the Angels came back to beat New York in 12 innings after trailing 6-0.

“He got the ball up in the jet-stream,” said Yankees manager Billy Martin of Grich’s blast. “The ball takes off.”

A smiling Grich replied, “Well, tell him that jet-stream is all the weight-lifting I did last winter. That’s the jet-stream.”

Other memorable games and outstanding sports performances on this date:

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1912 — Jim Thorpe wins gold medals in the 15-event pentathlon and decathlon at the Summer Olympics in Stockholm. At the closing ceremony, Sweden’s King Gustav V proclaims Thorpe the world’s greatest athlete. Thorpe’s reply is “Thanks, king.” The next year, Thorpe is stripped of his medals by the International Olympic Committee for taking expense money to play baseball prior to the 1912 Games, a violation of the IOC’s rules on amateurism. They are reinstated in 1982.

1961 — Arnold Palmer shoots a four-round total of 284, four-under par, at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, to win the first of two straight British Opens, a stroke ahead of Dai Rees of Wales. Palmer is the only American player to finish in the top 10. Gary Player of South Africa, who had won the Masters in April and the British Open in 1959, withdraws in the third round with a stomach disorder.

1967 — Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina wins his only major championship when he beats defending champion Jack Nicklaus by two strokes in the the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, England. It is the 44-year-old De Vicenzo’s 10th try at winning the Open and he shoots a final-round two-under-par 70 for a 278 total. Player and Clive Clark of England finish tied for third. Like Palmer in 1961, Nicklaus is the only American to finish in the top 10.

1990 — Taking advantage of Patty Sheehan’s misfortune, Betsy King digs herself out of an 11-shot deficit over the final 33 holes to win her second straight U.S. Women’s Open on the Riverside Course of the Atlanta Athletic Club in John’s Creek, Ga. Sheehan, who leads after each of the first three rounds, lets an eight-shot advantage evaporate over the final 23 holes. King is the fifth of seven players to win consecutive Opens and her total of 284 is one stroke better than Sheehan.

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1991 — Sandhi Ortiz-DelValle is the first woman to officiate a men’s professional basketball game when she calls a U.S. Basketball League contest between the New Haven Skyhawks and the Philadelphia Spirit at Holy Family College in Philadelphia. Ortiz-DelValle had officiated in pro-am leagues in New York and Los Angeles since 1984. She goes to work for the USBL after officiating the Pro-Am National Championship, and her whistle and jersey are requested for display by the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

2000 — Lennox Lewis stops No. 9-ranked Francois Botha of South Africa at 2:39 of the second round with a devastating four-punch combination that sends the challenger through the ropes to retain his World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles at the London Arena. Botha manages to land just nine punches in the bout.

2005 — Michelle Wie misses a chance to play in The Masters when Clay Ogden, a junior from Brigham Young, birdies four of the first five holes and then eases his way past the 15-year-old Punahou (Hawaii) High junior to win 5 and 4 in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links at Lebanon, Ohio. The loss ends Wie’s quest of becoming the first woman to be invited to play in The Masters.

2007 — In their 125th season in the major leagues, the Philadelphia Phillies lose their 10,000th game 10-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The franchise, which started out in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers and was also known as the Blue Jays in the mid-1940s, falls to 8,810-10,000 when the Cardinals hit six home runs, including two by Albert Pujols.

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2010 — Rory McIlroy, 21, from Northern Ireland, ties the major championship record by shooting a nine-under-par 63 in the opening round of the British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. McIlroy gets things rolling with an eagle on the par-four ninth hole after he drives the green and rolls in the putt. He continues the assault with six birdies on the back nine.

Sources: The Times, Associated Press

And finally

The NFL’s 100 greatest players, No. 37: Jim Thorpe. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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