By this time, everyone is thoroughly versed in the practice of social distancing. Over the last few weeks, the recommendation from government administrators has forced sports leagues and conferences around the country to shutter activities, knocking athletes out of a season of competition in the process.
East Carolina University was not immune to those actions as the Pirates’ baseball team will miss out on what was a promising 13-4 start to the 2020 campaign.
“Super unique, first time ever I guess for everybody,” head baseball coach Cliff Godwin said on Wednesday. “I don’t know of another time when this has happened. It’s not fun for anybody but there’s a lot of things going on in the world that are more important than athletics and baseball. It’s not fun, it was surreal when it first happened but now it’s becoming more normal.”
Washing hands, cleaning surfaces and maintaining a six-foot radius from people is part of the new normal for many Americans and others around the globe. For college students, student-athletes, coaches and support staff, communicating over a piece of technology is important for the cohesiveness of a team, especially in the shifting sands of this crisis.
Described by Godwin as a close knit group, his coaching staff and players are tapping into text, email, facetime and any other platform available to stay current on workouts and academics for the players. Godwin says he wants his players to sweat for at least an hour five days a week during this down time while also adhering to the safety precautions put in place by state and local governments.
Nevertheless, connection for he and his players plays a huge role in the culture in place, and that does not stop during these tough times.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) I put in there the ECU baseball challenge is for you to facetime or call one of your teammates or coaches, and have a different one that you talk to every single day moving forward just to keep that personal connection that we have,” Godwin said. “That is really important to myself and to a lot of our players and coaches.”
On the minds of a lot of players, especially the upperclassmen, while they are attempting to stay in shape and complete their academic requirements is eligibility. For those impacted by the spring sports cancellations, the NCAA has already expressed a willingness to grant an extra year of eligibility.
Whether that applies to seniors only or every athlete on a spring roster remains to be seen as the committee that makes such decisions is slated to meet on Monday to hash out terms. For ECU baseball, guys like redshirt seniors right-handed pitchers Cam Colmore and Matt Bridges, senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Smith and senior infielder Nick Barber would be those most directly impacted by the NCAA Division I council’s decision.
“I am pretty sure that the NCAA is going to grant the seniors another year of eligibility,” Godwin said. “Tyler Smith is definitely coming back, Cam Colmore is definitely coming back, Matt Bridges is definitely coming back.”
With his degree completed and the prospect of finding a job on the horizon, Barber has not yet decided about returning for a fifth year, while draft eligible juniors also face a tough decision regarding their futures.
Names like junior left-handed pitcher/first baseman Alec Burleson, junior outfielder Bryson Worrell and junior right-handed pitcher Gavin Williams are all eligible to enter the 2020 Major League Baseball draft, but questions remain as to whether the event will even be held in mid-June.
“They’re still taking it day-by-day,” Godwin said. “No. 1, the NCAA has not said, hey they’re going to allow them to have their junior year back or will they become a senior next year. Obviously there’s some question marks with when the draft will be, if it will happen and all those things.”
As the calendar flips to April, the hope is that more and more questions will continue to get answered. Everything from canceling the MLB draft to limiting the number of rounds to preceding as normal has been kicked around, while the council’s eligibility decision on Monday will help pave the way toward clarity.