On March 12, Central Alabama Community College’s softball players didn’t know their whole worlds were about to be turned upside down.
The Trojans played host to Coastal Alabama in what they thought was just another softball game. In an extra-innings game that went late into the evening, Benjamin Russell graduate Asia McWaters hit a walk-off home run to seal a 5-2 victory for the Trojans.
Little did they know, that was the last time they would take the field this season.
“We were probably one of the last college softball games in the country because we didn’t get done until right about 7 o’clock because we went to extra innings,” CACC coach Greg Shivers said.
Although the coronavirus outbreak was already on people’s minds before then, that fateful Thursday was when the sports world came to basically a complete stop. As the NBA postponed its season the night prior, the NHL followed suit then the NCAA conference tournaments and soon the championship tournament.
It wasn’t soon until the NJCAA made the same type of announcements.
“We started showing up to the ballpark that day around noon for a 2 o’clock game,” Shiver said. “Then we got home around 8 or after and I told Steve Lewis, my assistant, it was like the world had changed.”
CACC moved its spring break up a week and teams still thought there was a hope for the season to resume after that but to no avail. Shivers was scrolling Twitter one day during the break and saw the NJCAA had canceled the remainder of the season.
“Disappointment was the main thing,” Shivers said. “We haven’t even seen our athletes. We’ve only seen them once since this all happened and it’s just been a strange thing.”
Now CACC coaches, along with many others in their shoes, are in a waiting game to see what happens with eligibility and scholarships. But for teams like CACC’s softball squad, which had built up a 22-2 record, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
“There’s a little bit of salt in the wound as they say, but I just go back to disappointment,” Shivers said. “This team had learned so much since we arrived on campus in August, and it was fun to watch them. They think they have unfinished business, but we won’t all be back so that all has to play out as well.”
For CACC’s golf squad, which was looking to defend its NJCAA Division I title and was also off to a fantastic start after winning all its tournaments in the fall, it’s also a sense of disappointment.
“I’m not going to start taking Xanax or anything but it’s depressing to me,” CACC golf coach Dave Jennings said. “This is the time we’re rocking and rolling. Our guys are all getting better and we’re working our butts off and getting down in the dirt. It’s an exciting time. That’s been true for 20 years now of doing this, and it’s depressing.”
Although CACC’s baseball team had some ups and downs this season, it didn’t make the sting hurt any less. And although the Trojans knew the NJCAA was making the smartest decisions, the emotions were still high.
“They were pissed off; they were mad,” Central Alabama baseball coach Larry Thomas said. “They were upset because after we played Hanceville, we felt like we were turning the corner and things were coming together. The guys were starting to mature and the freshmen were starting to step up.”
All three coaches have told their student-athletes to focus on their academics, as CACC has moved to online-only instruction, and bigger decisions can be made later. With emotions so high and so much stress surrounding the situations, none wanted their players to make any rash decisions.
But even for the coaches, who are used to interacting with these students on a daily basis, they feel like the rug has been pulled out from beneath them.
“It sucks we can’t play baseball,” Thomas said. “I’ve been doing this since I was 6 years old, either playing or coaching, and now you can’t mentor kids and you really don’t know how to feel. It sucks but at the same time, we’ve gotta keep the right mind frame on what we need to do going forward.”