COVID-19’s Impact on Cougar Baseball

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Written by John Stocco

March 14, 2020, the Concordia University Chicago (CUC) Cougars were in the middle of their annual spring break tournament in Florida, a game no different than the others besides the team they were playing. That day the Cougars were taking on Clarkson University from New York. The Cougars were fighting their way back from a slow start as they walked into the game just a game below 500 at 4-5.

The Cougars knew they weren’t playing up to their potential and they’d have to turn it around quickly. This game felt like the beginning of that turn around, as the CUC Cougars, being led by Caleb Anderson and Matt Fauth, beat Clarkson University 7-6, which put CUC back to 5-5 on the season. As rumors began to run rampant regarding the future of the season, the players tried making the most of their opportunity in that game.

Ryan Davila even said that they wanted to play that game like it was their last because for some of them, it was. If this was the last time they’d be with each other then they wanted to end it on a high note. It’s a feeling that you can’t really describe to anyone else.

“When an athlete knows it’s over, it’s over, and there’s no way to make a comeback, there’s no way to go back in time, it’s over, and you have to hope that you can look in the mirror one day and say to yourself that you never cheated yourself or your teammates,” said Davila.

The players of CUC wanted to leave it all out on the field. The team was on their way back home, as spring break was ending and the team was gearing up for a three game homestand against the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh. The team was not only thinking about their season, but they were also thinking about their academics?

Students, especially seniors, were not only worried about finishing the season with their teammates, but they were worried about finishing the semester with their classmates who they’ve been the last four years building relationships with. CUC announced that they were extending spring break by a week, and shortly after that decision was made, CUC’s head baseball coach, Mike Stawski, held a team meeting announcing that the rest of the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Soon after, it was announced that CUC was going to transition to e-learning as every student would be learning from home. In a matter of moments, sports were cancelled for every CUC student, and in-person classes were cancelled for every CUC student. College students had to make life changing adjustments in a moment’s notice.

Events for Concordia University Chicago weren’t just cancelled, the entire world was cancelled and put on hold. The MLB, NBA, and NHL suspended their seasons, the PGA Tour suspended The Masters, the XFL, a new football organization suspended all day to day operations, and the NCAA cancelled one of the most anticipated and most watched events of the year, March Madness. Everyone was put on alert. For the first time, the world was put on hold, and everyone’s life changed.

What can they do? What happens next? How can seniors get their final moment of glory to play with their teammates? The NCAA has come out and has worked to give seniors another year of eligibility. The catch? Scholarships are limited in the collegiate world. You only get a certain number. For seniors, they would keep those scholarships and the schools would lose those for incoming freshmen. For Concordia University Chicago, this isn’t an issue.

CUC being a Division III school, they aren’t rewarded with athletic scholarships. Given the fact that most seniors at CUC were already 5th year seniors, the players cannot afford to go back to school for a 6th year, and CUC, as a baseball team, cannot afford to bring them back because of the roster spots being filled by incoming freshmen. Baseball players, as well as other spring sports, won’t have their moment they’ve been thinking about since they started playing sports.

We all have that moment, where you think about how you’re going to perform when it’s your final time doing what you love to do. This time, there won’t be that time. The coronavirus is every meaning of the word pandemic. It’s putting everyone at risk, everyone in danger, and now the world has to sit and wait. Life as we know it will never be the same again, and as it goes for college athletics, CUC students, and the CUC baseball team, whether it’s academically or athletically, 2020 will forever be looked back on as the lost year of society.