MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The swine flu outbreak has forced the cancellation or postponement of sporting events across the country, affecting everything from prep contests in Texas and Alabama to a college baseball road trip in Delaware.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association is pushing back its championship events until at least next week amid dozens of school shutdowns in the Huntsville area, where two probable cases of swine flu were reported. The state track and field championships were scheduled for this weekend in Gulf Shores and Troy.
Special Olympics Texas, meanwhile, canceled its spring games a day after all public high school athletic competitions in the state were put off until May 11.
Mexico has been at the center of the flu outbreak and its sports have been badly disrupted. Mexican pro soccer matches this weekend — 176 in all — will be played in empty stadiums and a pair of Copa Libertadores matches were moved to Colombia next week. The Copa Libertadores is Latin America’s most prestigious club championship.
Back in the United States, the flu’s impact hasn’t yet hit major league sports.
Texas Rangers spokesman John Blake said team physician David Hunter is keeping in contact with local health organizations. The Rangers also have distributed an information sheet about the flu provided by Major League Baseball to all ballpark personnel.
“It is a concern, because we do a travel a lot,” New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’re in places where there are big crowds all the time. I feel very good about the medicine in our country and the way our country handles situations.
“So you try to take as many precautions as you can, but you can’t stop living.”
At the college level, the NCAA said it was monitoring the situation but as of now doesn’t plan changes to its various spring championship sites.
The University of Delaware canceled a baseball series at North Carolina-Wilmington after 10 probable cases of the virus were identified among Delaware students, including one team member. The player’s name was not released.
Delaware and Hofstra also scratched a three-game softball series at Hofstra this weekend.
A rural school district in central New York is closing for two days after preliminary testing indicated a female student who had traveled to Mexico recently had contracted swine flu.
Fabius-Pompey Superintendent Tim Ryan says all sports and other activities also have been canceled through Friday. The rural district 10 miles south of Syracuse has 860 students.
North Kingstown High School in Rhode Island closed for the week and canceled all home and away games starting Wednesday afternoon. Health officials there identified a student who might have swine flu and recently went to Mexico.
Alabama’s decision came as some prep track teams were preparing to head to the state meets. It also affects postseason play in soccer, softball and golf.
The state organization set a tentative schedule to resume events starting next Tuesday, but won’t make a firm decision until the day before.
In north Alabama, Huntsville’s 52 city schools and 10 more in Madison were closed from Thursday through Monday, affecting some 31,000 students. Two probable cases of swine flu at a local kindergarten were reported.
At the opposite end of the state, Saint Paul’s High School track coach Jim Tate’s bid for a fourth consecutive Class 5A boys and girls titles was on hold, at least for a few days. Tate worried that state officials might not be able to hold the events during the spring with only a few weeks before summer break.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” he said from the Mobile school. “Everybody was primed and ready to go. (State health officials) are the experts that are deciding the degree of danger that we have, and obviously we want to do what’s safe for everybody.”
AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese, who pushed back the events on the advice of a medical advisory committee, promised to approach the matter in “a thoughtful, cautious” manner.
“We’re going to take a wait-and-see approach,” Savarese said Thursday. “We’re going to look at it each day and see what data we have.”
The LPGA does not plan to cancel its next event in Virginia next week.
The Tour made a stop last week in Morelia, about 200 miles from Mexico City, and has been in touch with various state and federal health agencies in advance of its event in Williamsburg, Va., May 7-10.
“We have no reports of any of our players, staff or caddies having contracted the infection,” David Higdon, LPGA spokesman said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation.”