Shutdown: The Day High School Baseball Disappeared

If you told me that the world would go to hell two weeks ago, I would have said you were crazy. I know that it has been a little while since I have posted, but my god has it been a crazy two weeks.

If you didn’t know, I am a high school teacher who also coaches baseball for my high school in Marion, Ohio. I love what I do. My summers off have allowed me to travel every year to new places in search of wonderful baseball venues with Scott. This part of the year is usually my most stressful. It is right when I’m preparing my classes for state tests and our baseball team would be ramping up for our first scrimmages of the year.

Well, do I have a story for you.

On Monday, March 9th, I prepared for school just like any other day. Packed my lunch, went to school, made coffee, and started thinking about the things I wanted our guys to work on at practice that afternoon. The weather was so nice we were able to go outside and practice (a rarity for Ohio at this time). A teacher during the day told me, “Man, if this coronavirus stuff blows up, I bet we won’t have school the rest of the year.” I thought it was one of the most insane comments I’d ever heard.

Boy, I was wrong.

By Wednesday, the kids began to notice that things felt off. School was buzzing with this “coronavirus” talk. I started to think about what would happen if schools were let out and if it would affect our baseball season. I was stressed out the entire day.

On Thursday, there were serious questions on whether or not school would be cancelled or if the coronavirus issue would start going out of control in Ohio. Of course, I gave a test that day  and I nothing else to do other than read the New York Times and panic.

So, I’m driving across town to the middle school (where our locker room and field is) and I’m listening to the governor’s press conference and I’m not really thinking about much. I cut off the press conference to unlock the locker room and to get dressed for practice. As the guys started trickling into the locker room, there was a buzz going around about “spring break.” While I was getting ready for practice, the governor announced that schools would be let out for a three week spring break. Guys were giving themselves high fives because they were getting out of school. Right then, I knew our season was in jeopardy. 


The word starting spreading in our coaches group text. Indoor sports would go without spectators and outdoor sports would be unaffected. A glimmer of hope. We went up to our field (known informally as “The Hill”) to practice. As the guys were stretching, we got word that our Athletic Director was meeting during our practice with the Superintendent about what would happen with spring sports.

Right then, we decided that as a coaching staff that we were going to play a JV vs. Varsity inter squad game. If our season was going to come to an end, we were at least playing a game damn it.

So we played.

I called balls and strikes from behind the pitchers mound. The trash talk ensued. For a brief moment, things felt normal.

And then, a sight I didn’t want to see: our AD walking up the hill. We had our guys huddle around a guest speaker we had visiting our practice so we could hear the news. We were done. No practices allowed during the three week spring break because we needed to practice social distancing. It wasn’t just that we weren’t allowed to practice, but we needed to clean out the locker room, tonight, in case the order extended beyond three weeks.

On top of this terrible news, we still had one more inning to play. So the coaches had to pretend that everything was fine, and I called balls and strikes. I could barely focus. “Would the news that schools were closing mean the grocery stores would run out of food?” “What would this mean for my job?” “What happened if I contracted the virus and gave it to my loved ones?” 

When the last out was recorded, we had the guys huddle back down the hill and meet in the locker room. When we broke the news to them, you could hear a pin drop. Tears in the guys eyes. We couldn’t promise them that we would be back together after the three weeks were up. Three seniors might have seen their baseball careers end. It was probably the hardest conversation I’ve had to have in my professional career.

So the guys cleaned out their lockers, made a group text, and walked out. I had to start preparing for what was next.

One week later, I’ve had to flip my teaching career around to being completely online. We are not allowed in school buildings (which sucks since my baseball stuff is trapped in the coaches office), all restaurants are carry out only, and we have officially been given a shelter in place order. 


Life comes at you fast.

While we do not know when the end of this journey is coming, I can tell you this: the sun will come up again. We will have a return to normalcy at some point. Baseball will return. I can’t tell you when, but it will. This whole experience has taught me that life is fragile and that we need to hold tight the people we care about. It makes us cherish the things we love even more. Even though we don’t have baseball now, it makes me even more excited for when the sound of the crack of the bat and the pop of a ball hitting the glove returns. 



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