Last Monday should have been an exciting day for Fairbury High School, as the school’s first-ever baseball team put on its brand-new uniforms and gathered to take a team photo.
Instead of hitting the field afterward to prepare for the first game of the season, the uniforms went right back into a box.
“It was really sad to see the boys all decked out and looking good in our new uniforms and have to take them off their backs right after,” Fairbury coach Jesse Bauer said.
After all, Fairbury no longer had anything to prepare for. On March 16, the NSAA suspended all activities until March 30 and all competitions until April 2 due to the spread of COVID-19.
While the move has affected every spring sport, it’s been especially disappointing for schools that planned on playing their first season of baseball this year. At Fairbury, 25 players went out for the sport. A group of seniors experienced in American Legion baseball could have been a cornerstone class on which to build.
At Adams Central, the addition of baseball had caused similar excitement, all the way from upperclassmen down to the four student-managers who had volunteered to help the team.
Coach Travis McCarter was just seeing that excitement turn into action when the season was suspended.
"I really got bummed up because I was starting to see some progress; they were really helping plant some seeds and set the foundation for the rest of the younger guys,” he said.
Last week, Adams Central students had to clean out their lockers and gather all their personal belongings so the school could disinfect the building. With schools closed, parks shut down and sports on hold, there’s been uncertainty for coaches on how to approach the situation.
McCarter has been staying in touch with players as best he can, sending them clips from baseball movies and keeping their thoughts on the sport. Even though the status of the spring season is still up in the air, teams are trying to stay positive that at some point baseball will return.
“Even if it’s toward the back end of April, I think it would be nice to just get in eight to 10 games,” McCarter said.
St. Paul/Palmer coach Derek Reinsch also hopes that part of the season will be played, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. Gov. Pete Ricketts recently announced that Omaha schools will be closed for six to eight weeks, and the Kansas State High School Activities Association has canceled all spring sports.
“Just seeing a lot with the different states around (Nebraska), it really just leads you to wonder whether we’ll have a spring season or not,” Reinsch said.
The suspension came at a difficult time for St. Paul/Palmer, as players from the two schools were beginning to build team chemistry. Losing out on practices and preparation as a team hurts, but Reinsch said he understands why the NSAA made its decision, and that player safety should be the top priority.
Still, uncertainty is the prevailing feeling for the state’s first-year baseball programs. Like others, Reinsch is trying to stay positive and get a season together for his players, but there’s little he can do. For now, it’s just a waiting game to see if any form of sports will be able to start up in the coming weeks and months.
“I never thought in my lifetime we’d see something like this where all the major sports, all the high school sports and just the whole country shuts down,” Reinsch said.
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