With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, a handful of local George County athletes competing beyond high school have now faced a swift end to once-promising spring baseball, softball and track seasons.
The outbreak of the virus, which began in Wuhan, China in late December, has spread to over 147 countries worldwide and reportedly killed more than 7,800 people, while also sickening tens of thousands more.
On January 20, the United States confirmed its first case of coronavirus in Washington state, and since then approximately 300 American citizens have perished.
Mississippi reported its first case on March 11 concerning a man who had recently traveled to Florida. Over 1,300 tests statewide for the virus later, along with a plethora of business and public gathering curfews and regulations, Mississippians are now being pushed to significantly alter the way they live, if only for a little while, and college athletes in particular are bidding farewell to their 2020 spring sports for good.
Mississippi State freshman baseball player Logan Tanner, who recently won the starting catcher job for the Diamond Dogs finished with a .268 batting average after playing in 13 games. He admits to being a bit astonished upon hearing the news. “I was more stunned than panicky,” said Tanner. “I never thought this would happen, but it was something crazy on the day that it did. When I first saw it (on the news), I didn’t know how serious it was going to be, but it’s getting pretty serious here in the U.S. Hopefully they find an antidote for it soon and stop it in its tracks with all of this social distancing.”
One of the biggest concerns throughout the college sports world during the crisis is the question of reimbursing years of eligibility which will be lost due to the cancellations, which Tanner says that at least in Starkville, nothing official has been announced yet.
“Nothing has been said yet. They’ve just been putting ideas out there and trying to find out the best thing because of the amount of scholarships we get for the university. It’s just about roster space. ”
Other local college baseball players who will miss their seasons include Cole Pugh (Jones County College), a freshman outfielder who saw action in three games, Cameron Cotton, who played his freshman year at East Central Community College and is now at a standstill at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College with a .325 batting average and five home runs, Ethan Coleman, also at MGCCC and Belhaven’s Kyle Whittington.
Whittington was a senior pitcher for the Blazers that saw his year of baseball come to an end.
Coleman, a freshman, saw action in just five games before the cancellation and also shared his thoughts on the state of emergency.
“We were 6-8 coming out of the coronavirus, but I left there coming off a pretty good note after starting slow,” Coleman said. “My first reaction to the news announcement was that I didn’t think that it was real. I just thought it was all fake. They’re always putting things out there that really don’t make any sense, and then when they (MGCCC) told me we were done I thought well, we’ll probably only go home for maybe a week or two weeks because it was also coming up on spring break. It was crazy.”
Cody McDoniel, a freshman at East Mississippi Community College, was sitting out the year with an injury.
Three former George County Rebels in the minor leagues have also been affected: Walker Robbins (St. Louis Cardinals), Justin Steele (Chicago Cubs) and Trevor McDonald (San Francisco Giants).
Former Rebel track and field athlete Giacomo Deluca is also seeing his season end at Mississippi State. The sophomore had completed his indoor season and recently started with outdoor track. To finish up his indoor season he had just recorded a new personal best of 8:15.93 in the 3000m at the Music City Challenge in February.
Former Lady Rebel softball players are also suffering the consequences of the pandemic.
Freshman Pearl River Community College third baseman Raegan Havard finished third on the team with a .356 batting average.
Southern Miss sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Passeau had several walks but had not yet found her first hit this season. Pitcher Brooklyn King was in the middle of her sophomore season for East Central Community College. She had posted a 5-2 record on the mound for the Warriors. Freshman Dessy Thornton had been working her way on to the field with a veteran outfield line-up for Hinds Community College.
Despite the panic, the NCAA, at least, makes its mission statement during coronavirus abundantly clear: “When it comes to decision-making, our commitment is this: Protect the health and safety of college athletes.”
Appropriately, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) echoes nearly the same: “In light of the progressive evolvement of the COVID-19 situation, the NJCAA has decided to end all competition for the remainder of the academic year,” stated Dr. Christopher Parker, NJCAA President and CEO through a statement released by the NJCAA. “As an association, the NJCAA exhausted all possible avenues to potentially postpone competition for both upcoming basketball championships and spring sport competition. We believe following the recommendations of the CDC is in the best interest of our member colleges and our student-athletes.”
And of course in the meantime we, the public, can and should be clear and truthful to ourselves that like all other things in life, both good and bad, this, too, shall pass.