Steven Kaminsky and his little league teammates have been fundraising to play at Cooperstown Dreams Park in Cooperstown, New York — home to the Baseball Hall of Fame — for the last two years.
“We’ve been practicing so hard. We just can’t wait for it, and we’ve been talking about it for a long time. It’s like a dream,” the Pennsylvania 12-year-old told WPVI.
But his team is among several left scrambling after the park released a new requirement for attendance: Players 12 and up must be vaccinated for COVID-19.
The problem? No COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for use in children under 16.
On April 8, Cooperstown Dreams Park announced its 2021 opening plan, which includes several precautions to help mitigate the spread of the virus during its summer camp and tournaments.
Among them: Players 12 and up must be vaccinated for COVID-19 as well as a host of other diseases.
“All participants, coaches and campers 12 years and older must be immunized,” officials said in the plan. “Immunization requirements: COVID-19 (campers under 12 years of age are exempt, but must provide a negative test upon arrival) ...”
Family members 12 and up registered to visit campers must also provide proof that they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19.
McClatchy News reached out to Cooperstown Dreams Park for comment Tuesday and was awaiting response.
Now, parents across the country are confused, including Tom Walsh, whose child plays on the Southern Athletic Juniors in South Carolina.
“We were a little surprised at the fact that they wanted the kids to be vaccinated and a lot of us just don’t support that,” he told WYFF. “Especially now with a vaccination not being available to kids right now.”
Herb Kaminsky, who coaches his son’s team in Pennsylvania, said the requirement is ridiculous.
“It’s like asking to bring a unicorn to the game,” Kaminsky told WNYT. “Unicorns don’t exist, this vaccine doesn’t exist. How can you require it?”
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for people 16 and up.
The Moderna vaccine is not authorized for use in anyone under age 18 nor is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (federal officials have since recommended a pause in administering the latter after six women developed blood clots days after receiving the one-dose shot).
Playing at Cooperstown can cost teams a whopping $20,000 — money parents aren’t sure they’ll get back if their teams pull out of the camp.
“We were required to send final payments in March and then they sent the vaccine requirements out last week and now don’t want to give refunds and it just seems criminal,” Kristin Robinson, whose son plays in South Carolina, told WYFF. “Even if they only retain the deposit, they still stand to make millions of dollars off cancellations when they changed the requirement.”
The park’s registration document says all fees are non-refundable after the second payment is made.
Amy Kaminsky said it’s been difficult to get in contact with park officials.
“My husband sent an email. We’ve called a couple times. We haven’t gotten really any great responses back,” she told WPVI. “We did get one generic email saying to reach out to your team contact — who happens to be my husband — for clarification. It’s hard to get through.”
Steven Kaminsky said he hopes park officials will have a change of heart and allow players of all ages who submit negative tests to participate.
“I would ask them to change their mind,” he told WNYT. “It would be really exciting for me.”