Former Huskies caught off guard by 2020 spring sports cancellations
HUNTINGDON — The Juniata College baseball team was enjoying sunny Florida for an eight-game stretch beginning the 2020 season when its routine, like everyone else’s, came to a jarring halt.
The coronavirus reached American shores and literally overnight, the sports world went dark. The Eagles, who won seven of eight games in the Sunshine State, saw their promising season end abruptly at 7-3.
Two former Mifflin County standouts – Isaac Maclay and Evan Mock – returned home to a changed world, trying to make sense of all that’s happened in such a brief time.
“While down in Florida we were hearing rumors that our season was postponed and may be canceled but I thought we did a great job of controlling the controllable when we were down there and getting quality wins, because when you step in between those lines nothing else in the world matters,” Maclay said. “Unfortunately, it started to sink in on our way back home that our season would be canceled and this was devastating to all of us because this was a year that the culture and performance levels at Juniata were changing for the better. I was especially heartbroken for our seniors who saw their careers end in an unexpected way.”
For Mock, the most disappointing aspect of the shutdown is all the work and effort the team put in to get ready for the season.
“As a team, we prepared all winter and worked very hard working up to Florida. We started off very hot as a team and played extremely well. The team was coming together and looking like a serious contender in the Landmark Conference,” Mock said. “Finding out halfway through the trip that our spring break had been extended and the college was shutting down for two weeks and going online for classes. As a whole, there was a lot of talk between the team about what would happen, but we stayed focused and continued to play baseball.”
Another tough pill to swallow for Mock is not getting a chance to see how good this Eagles team could be.
“We had a lot of high hopes that we would be playing and playing well. A lot of the older guys on the team said it looked like the best team Juniata has had in a while and could be serious contenders,” Mock continued. “After coming home and finding out our season had been cut short, there was a lot of devastation, especially for the seniors. All the hard work through the winter felt wasted, but yet in such a very confusing way. None of us had been put in any situation like this before and it was very troubling.”
The NCAA will give spring athletes another year of eligibility to make up for the lost season with certain conditions. Another year of eligibility is something both Mock and Maclay will consider.
“I believe since our season is now officially canceled, I will receive another year of eligibility and if I decide to go to graduate school, then I will take advantage of this extra year,” Maclay said. “Right now, I am unsure whether I will get a master’s degree, but the chance of having another year to play baseball leans my decision towards earning a Master’s.”
Mock shares similar thoughts about the extra year. It all depends on his choice to attend or not attend graduate school.
“Hearing that all athletes will be granted an extra year of eligibility takes a little weight off of our shoulders but for seniors, it can only be used if they continue into graduate school,” Mock said. “I don’t know if I will take advantage of it just because I don’t know if I want to go into graduate school.”
The big change continues as sports are shuttered and classes are now online. It’s a hard period of adjustment for every student-athlete.
“Academically, we just found out all our classes for the remainder of the semester are now online, which will be different and will take getting used to. I’m taking it one day at a time and trying to work as best I can with my professors through the online lessons, lectures, and assignments they have available for us,” Maclay said.
A consistent routine is a key function for every athlete. Not going to class or playing baseball is something Mock is struggling with right now.
“Handling the situation is very difficult. Having all of our classes online will be very tough. It will be a really big adjustment for all of us,” Mock said. “Not going to school for the first time in 13 years and not playing baseball for the first time in years. Moving forward as an athlete, I just have to take this time and better myself as much as I can with the restrictions we have and work towards next season.”
The most problematic aspect for Maclay is no athletics. Even so, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s the attitude the Juniata College junior adopts as he impatiently waits for next season.
“There being no athletics will be the hardest part of this whole situation for me because of not being with all the guys on the team every day like we would have been if we were playing, but so far we have been able to stay in touch,” Maclay said. “It stinks we won’t be able to see the results of all the hard work we’ve put in during the off-season and preseason. Although it stinks we have no season, it gives each one of us underclassman more of a chance to get better for next year, which I think most guys will take advantage of.
“Although we can’t control the hand we’ve been dealt, we can control how to play it and if we work hard in this time off, we have a chance to do something really special next year.”
Both former Huskies were having a good start to the season. Maclay had a .343 batting average with five homers and 16 RBI in 10 games at first base for the Eagles. Mock hit .500 with three RBI in five games at shortstop and third with no errors.
The stats don’t matter now. The fields are empty and the sights, smells and sounds of the grand old game are missed. All because of an invisible enemy that’s changing lives and disrupting the entire world.