HBCU Fall Ball Dealing With Uncertainty During the Coronavirus Pandemic

While many things remain outside of our control, our mindset is key to coping with difficult circumstances and facing the unknown. Uncertainty is all around us, never more so than today, especially from the current COVID-19 pandemic which has heightened uncertainty over Historically Black College and University (HBCU) baseball programs.

The pandemic has challenged both physical and mental health. Yet we crave security, want to feel safe and have control over our lives. Now we are dealing with what-ifs and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may or may not bring.

All of the HBCU baseball programs are dealing with how much uncertainty they can tolerate. None are taking risks and putting student-athletics on the field because as a whole the programs are learning to cope with uncertainty. They are not alone. Many of us are in the same boat at this time. It’s also important to deal with the unknown.

As the coronavirus outbreak has shown, since this past March, when it hit HBCU baseball like a ton of bricks, life can change very quickly and very unpredictably. Head coaches and their assistants may have found themselves struggling to put food on the table or keep their families safe. Sending kids home was not just one option, it was the only option as teams were starting to get into the groove before being shut-down. The same can be said of the players. Not knowing their fate made them anxious about when the pandemic will end or if life will ever return to normal.

To cope with all this uncertainty, I’m finding myself struggling to report my passion to present fall ball which typically sets me up for the the start to every season. I’m finding many of us use worrying as a tool for trying to predict the future and avoid nasty surprises. The uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything I have experienced heading into my 20th season in reporting collegiate baseball.

As both the NCAA and NAIA hope to start the 2021 season, one thing that needs to be stressed is, no one knows how this pandemic is going to end, or when it will be safe to allow players back on the diamond.

HBCU baseball coaching ranks are looking at the future that looks bleak without a vaccine and want players to understand the ramifications. Players are justifiably concerned about their health and welfare, and many are wondering whether it really will be safe to return to the field in 2021. Some of the coaches weigh in on the future of the 2021 season.

Mississippi Valley State head coach Aaron Stevens, “we are all in different situations school wise but we all have to deal with the pandemic that we are in. At this time we only have nine players on campus, with the rest that are scheduled to be here coming this weekend. I have five guys who have opted out of the fall so we will see them in January…At this present time we have not started any kind of workouts or practice. We will hopefully know more from our administration after Labor Day.”

Jarvis Christian College Michael Holochuck said “all are online this fall with no students on campus. We will not be able to have on campus practices this fall to see the guys.”

Southern’s Kerrick Jackson said “with all the COVID stuff taking place, we have not started any team workouts, and not exactly sure when we will”.

According to Tougaloo College baseball, “we will not have any fall ball as students are fully virtual this semester” and at Morehouse College, “baseball activities have been cancelled for now. The institution is currently completely virtual and a decision regarding a return for the spring semester has not been made yet.”

Meanwhile the NCAA and NAIA compensated its student-athletes by allowing another year of eligibility to play baseball. The two governing bodies compromised because this pandemic is having a profound impact on all of us.

HBCU baseball season starts in February (2021) leaving a lot of unknowns to think about instead of pleasant things like winning ballgames or knocking off a ranked team.

The 2020 HBCU season was one of those “pleasant things” before the pandemic. Optimistically, all of the teams nucleus from the 2020 season are returning whenever the seasons starts back up.

I miss the competition on the field. I truly hope my 20th year of reporting HBCU baseball is fruitful. No one wants to think the season will be canceled again. Hopefully, I’m very confident about this coming 2021 season. It would be more than disappointing not to be able to play ball again.

My expectation is that COVID-19 won’t shake up the HBCU Baseball landscape for 2021 and beyond.

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