The Wharton Little League had planned on having a baseball season and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, had publicly announced that it would play an abbreviated season.

Within days of making the announcement to return, league officials did an about face and decided to cancel.

They cited their reasons why.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s guidelines were too strict for youth sports and the Wharton Little League announced the 2020 season was canceled.

“We were actually hoping with the governors’ second wave of (openings) it would have been better for us,” Wharton Little League President Robert Vandagriff said. “Playing sports and being in close contact we didn’t feel like we could consistently take care of the (guidelines) at the park.”

The Little League does not have a strong volunteer base and with the need to constantly keep things sanitized and clean, it would have also been too expensive for the non-profit, board officials said. After a three-hour meeting, they agreed 2021 baseball and softball will return to the park.

“Believe me we wanted to play,” Vandagriff said. “We were geared up to go. We were making schedules. We were laser-focused in on playing and it’s heartbreaking for all of us. I put in a lot of time out there and I still do and it’s heartbreaking we had to (cancel) but we didn’t have a choice.”

Fees and next season

Along with closing, the Wharton Little League (WLL) also announced registration fees would be partially refunded or parents could opt to have the fees rolled over to the 2021 season. The partial refund was questioned on the league’s Facebook page, prompting officials to share how WLL finances are spent.

It said WLL had counted on a major fundraiser and a cake auction. Both would have brought in plenty of dollars.

“We had already purchased everything we needed to play this season, that doesn’t leave us a lot of money left in our budget,” Vandagriff said.

WLL used leftover money to make improvements to the ballpark and buy new equipment. They planned to make up all the money with a cake auction and the meal fundraiser, with both being canceled, the money wasn’t made up.

“The only reason the (partial) refund is $20 is that’s all we can afford,” Vandagriff said. “We’ve spent the money. We didn’t spend the money on anything frivolously, it’s stuff that the park needed.”

Not only did WLL make needed upgrades, said Vandagriff, the league also had to replace copper pipes stolen from the bathrooms and deal with other vandalism at the park.

“We try our very best to  be diligent and good stewards with everyone’s money, Vandagriff said. “I was getting called scandalous, a crook and a thief. I was like wow, I’m a volunteer.”

While these are tough times, WLL is looking into future fundraisers, including potentially starting an annual cook-off later in the year.

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