With the high school baseball season put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, area coaches are finding ways to cope with uncertainty while their teams can’t play, practice or even partake in team meetings.
While most school systems in Tennessee, including Knox, won’t return to school at least through April 24, the remainder of the 2020 campaign is in jeopardy. But the TSSAA hasn’t scrapped the season or Spring Fling.
So players must attempt to remain in playing shape.
But for Farragut Admirals skipper Matt Buckner, defending Class AAA state champ head coach, Hardin Valley Academy head coach Tyler Roach and Bearden’s John Rice, life is about more than just baseball. “It is what it is, and we’re all in the same boat,” Buckner said.
“I haven’t seen our players since the last time we practiced or played,” he added. “I’m sure that they’re all doing stuff. I just want everybody to be safe. For me, it’s about taking care of the people in my circle.”
Rice, a long-time coach in the area, agreed. “As a dad, my biggest concern is taking care of my wife and kids,” he said. “This is bigger than baseball. We have nine seniors, and our kids really want to play together. Hopefully they’ll get that chance.
“But our kids are not idiots. They know what’s going on and they know how serious this is,” he added.
Roach, HVA’s second-year head coach, is finding things difficult, but like Buckner and Rice, “I’m taking the time to spend with my family.
“I was made to be a coach and that feels like what I’ve been put here to do, and right now I can’t do that,” he added. “The biggest thing I miss is the chance to be with our kids.
Though none of the coaches have met with their teams, Roach said he is working to meet with his players via Zoom, an online meeting website.
“We can’t meet or do anything together, but I know that our guys are throwing and I know that some guys are hitting in their garages,” he added. “We’re working on setting up something with Zoom just so we can check on our guys just to see how they’re doing.”
Should play resume, District 4-AAA had not made any regular season or playoff adjustment plans at deadline.
Buckner said that he’s never seen uncertainty like this.
“This is sort of new for us. We’ve never had anything like this,” Buckner said. “We don’t have any experience to draw off of.
“We can’t go back and say this is what we did when this happened before because we’ve never had to deal with anything like this and I really don’t know what to tell you.”
Buckner coaches one of Tennessee’s elite high school baseball programs and the Admirals are the defending Class AAA State Champions. His program is deep and some of his players were set to get their first chance to shine.
“We worked very hard to get ready for last year and we worked extremely hard to get ready for this year,” Buckner said. “We’ve had guys who have worked hard and this was going to be their year to shine.”
Rice is looking forward to the chance to get back on the field but he’s also realistic.
“Our nine seniors really want to chance to play together,” he said. “But you can’t fight what you can’t control.”
Should school resume and the season begin again, Roach said that he anticipates a week of practice before play resumes.
“If we go back on April 24, we’ll have a week of practice for our guys to get in shape and get their arms back and that’s really not enough time.”
For now, Rice is counting his blessings.
“I’m blessed to be working in the school system and my kids are learning at home,” he said.
Knox County Schools is paying its employees while schools remain closed.
“We’re a long way from deciding how to continue the season,” Roach said.