For the first time in a year, there will be competitive middle school sports in the Busline League.

Kathleen Peabody, league president, said the Busline League, which encompasses Midcoast geographically from Wiscasset to Searsport, and the three Penobscot Bay islands, will sponsor baseball and softball this spring.

The Busline League, like many, canceled its spring season in 2020 due to the pandemic and followed suit in the fall. The 2020-21 winter season also was canceled, though practices and, in some cases, intraschool scrimmages were held for basketball.

Now, youngsters will be back on the diamonds in the coming weeks.

“I’m just really happy we can finally offer them something,” said Peabody.

Baseball and softball will have separate divisions, with teams playing schools within those divisions.

The South teams will include Nobleboro/Jefferson, Bristol, Great Salt Bay of Damariscotta, Boothbay Region and Medomak Middle School (7th), while the North will be comprised of teams from Medomak Middle School (8th), Oceanside of Rockland, Camden-Rockport, Troy Howard of Belfast and Searsport.

The majority of teams will have eight regular-season games. Peabody said if the regular season goes well, there could be discussion of holding playoffs and championship games.

Peabody said the Busline League will follow Maine Principals' Association guidelines for baseball and softball, which notes all players, coaches and spectators are to be masked at all times, that umpires will be standing behind the pitchers instead of home plate and that dugouts will extend outside of physical dugouts in an effort to achieve social distancing.

She said there will be a screening process for spectators to attend games hosted by schools in AOS 93, which includes Nobleboro/Jefferson, Bristol and Great Salt Bay.

“The nice thing about Nobleboro is in order to get to the game you have to go through a gate to get to the playground [and field area],” she said. “And I’m going to stand there and collect the COVID checklists from parents that they’ve signed. Or fill it out right here if you don’t have it. Because we have to be able to be accountable for parents that are there with their phone numbers so we can do contact tracing if we have to.

“There’s no medical exemptions. This is how it has to be, or we can’t do this.”

It is not known if that same screening process will be used by other schools.

Spectators will be allowed to attend events at 75 percent capacity for outdoor events. Those percentages will increase to 100 percent on Monday, May 24.

The Busline League also offers outdoor track and field in the spring, but there are a few hurdles that must be cleared before that again can become a reality.

“The problem is finding a track that isn’t taken by a high school already,” said Peabody. “When we did track two years ago we’d be able to go to Medomak on Mondays and practice at their track. But trying to figure out what schools are going to allow other schools to come to their facility is a whole different ballgame.”

Another interesting wrinkle is some middle school track teams are large in size. In some extreme cases, up to 100 student-athletes from one school, which would, in itself, put facilities over the maximum allotted capacity for outdoor events.

Transportation also is an issue, with the majority of schools being short on buses/bus drivers with fewer students allowed on buses at a given time.

Peabody said one idea is to do events remotely at a school's own home, record times and/or distances and put them up against other schools doing the same. This was done at the high school level in swimming over the winter.

“I think we’ll be feeling this out for the next several weeks,” she said.