It’s appropriate that today is Friday the 13th because, after the last two days of stunning news regarding the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it seems that all we’ve had over the last two days have been bad luck and bad news.
Let’s look at what we do know going from macro to micro as of Friday morning…
On the global scale, the coronavirus has led to 138,274 confirmed cases and 5,082 deaths with 1,832 cases in the United Stated and 41 deaths so far including 31 in Washington. The U.S. is the 8th highest in terms of total cases.
Only three states as of Friday morning have no reported cases: Alabama, Idaho and West Virginia.
Many states have recommended gatherings of more than 150 or 250 be cancelled, at least in the short-term.
Everything from Disneyland and Disney World to Broadway has been closed, mostly through the end of the month but some for more (Broadway theaters are suspended through April 12).
Travel to and from Europe has mostly been curtailed for the next month.
And, increasingly, K-12 schools are being closed and students told to stay home. Washington, the state most heavily hit by cases and deaths, has some of the most heavily affected counties, closing for the next six weeks.
Others, including Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon, have announced statewide shutdowns of all K-12 schools.
The sports world has been greatly affected; in the next two weeks, at least, we’re looking at very little going on from pros down to youth levels.
Pretty much everything at the pro level has been suspended: NBA, the first major league to temporarily pull the plug after two Utah Jazz players were diagnosed positive with the coronavirus, MLB (rest of spring training), NHL, Major League Soccer, the PGA Tour and so on.
Two days ago, it looked like many college events—including NCAA basketball conference tournaments plus March Madness as well as most college softball games—would take place, but not with fans in attendance. Major schools like UCLA, Texas, Washington and others were going this route.
Yesterday, the shocking blow came that the NCAA events mostly went from being postponed to cancelled, including all NCAA championships not just in winter sports, but also in the spring including the Women’s College World Series.
"This is time for big events like March Madness, big events like these big sports arena things to take a pause for the next four to six to eight weeks while we see what happens with this outbreak in this nation, Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday at a House Oversight Committee hearing in Washington.
The most visible international stage for softball, eagerly anticipated for years, was to be the Tokyo Olympic Games, the first time since 2008 that fastpitch has been in the Games and the last time for at least the next eight (Paris in 2024 no, Los Angels in 2028 possibly).
Right now, the Tokyo Games are still on.
As reported on Yahoo!, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told reporters at a news conference at IOC headquarters Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday that advisers have green-lit the games.
“All the advice we're getting is that the games can and will go ahead,” Adams said from a meeting of the IOC’s executive board.
Whether that remains the case will be seen and hopefully by this summer things will have calmed down and the disease greatly curtailed.
In the short-term, however, the U.S. Olympic Team has been impacted in its preparations for this summer as the “Stand Beside Her” tour hitting 36 stops in 18 states has seen three cancellations in the Northwest over the next week.
One of those was a scheduled contest versus the University of Washington that was supposed to have been played last night as well as future contests against Oregon colleges.
The college season’s outlook is dismal with the WCWS being cancelled and many conferences either having pulled the plug on the season or suspending for a minimum of two weeks to wait and see what will happen.
Graham Hays of ESPN summarized the situation nicely in an article on Thursday under the heading of “Are all spring sports cancelled?”
“Not officially, at least not yet,” Hays explained. “The NCAA announced the cancellation of all spring championships, including the College World Series and Women's College Series, but it did not address regular-season competition.”
“As of Thursday evening, the following conferences had publicly announced the suspension of spring athletic competition: ACC, American, Atlantic Sun, Big 12, Big South, Big West, Conference USA, Colonial, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, NEC, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, SWAC, WAC.”
“Most of the suspensions were either for the equivalent of "until further notice," as the Pac-12 phrased its action, or through at least the end of March.”
“Additionally, America East, Big East, Big Ten, Ivy League, MAAC, MEAC, the Patriot League and Stanford, independent of the rest of the Pac-12, announced the complete cancellation of all spring seasons.”
Club & High School
At the club and high softball levels, nothing has been finalized but announcements could be coming next week.
Extra Inning Softball has spoken with many top coaches at both levels and right now it’s a wait-and-see approach.
Already, however, one major high school tournament has been cancelled and it looks like the big states including California, Texas and Florida are leaning towards cancelling their prep seasons according to several sources (more on this to come later today).
With more and more states beginning to cancel school, it would look like high school sports would not continue for the spring, at least in the short-term, unless something changes in the spread of the coronavirus
On the club side, there is the benefit of having more time since the majority of events are played in the summer, but many of the top event producers including PGF, USSSA, Triple Crown, do have events in the upcoming weeks—including Nationals qualifiers—and will have to make some decisions quickly.
Look for some news to come out as early as Monday with some of the top event producers.
FEELING IT AT THE PERSONAL LEVEL
So what does all this mean for softball?
In a stunningly short amount of time, softball at all levels has been impacted significantly, however, it’s on a personal level that this pandemic has made such drastic and emotional changes.
One senior college player, Kira Krueger, a pitcher and third baseman for Div. III Hamline University in St. Paul Minnesota, articulately conveyed the shock and pain many collegiate athletes are going through right now.
In May, Kira will graduate with a Bachelors in Finance and has a job lined up to be a District Executive for the Boy Scouts is America, but for now is dealing with the swirl of emotions she’s facing with ending of her season and, possibly, her softball career.
“The fact that my last year that I get to play the sport that I grew up playing and love is canceled is absolutely heartbreaking,” she said today. “I haven’t stopped crying. A part of my life has just been taken away from me. My heart hurts.”
“It was always my dream from the moment I first picked up a softball to get to play in college and now to strip away my last year is like getting shot in the heart. I sincerely hope (the) NCAA does something to allow us to play next year, but at the same time I already have a full-time job lined up!”
“And if I have to take classes again to play I don’t wanna pay thousands of more dollars! I really just need to process this whole situation more because right now. I’m just hoping that I will wake up soon from this nightmare I’m having.”
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
While all seems to be put on hold, at least temporarily, it doesn’t mean that people are giving up without a fight.
Though going through the grieving process with all the changes that have happened this week, many in the sports and softball communities are starting to explore options. At the college level, one proposal that is gaining strength is to add another year of eligibility, even though that will come with difficult factors involving scholarships, finances and number of players currently in a program and those being recruiting to come in.
Heather Tarr, the National Championship-winning head coach at Washington and an Assistant on Team USA, posted a tweet that favors this position:
Also, a second petition, which has nearly 20,000 signatures to date, is asking that the NCAA leaders reverse the decision to cancel spring sports and change the status back to "suspended until further notice."
Krueger, the Hamline University senior, admits she would love to continue playing, but the reality of life may make that difficult.
“If given another year of eligibility I would definitely consider playing,” she states, “but finding the time to do that with a full-time job would be very difficult. Not to mention if I had to pay for it, I’m already in so much debt.”
--- Brentt Eads, Extra Inning Softball