This past spring, college coaches across the nation were forced to follow the lead of Jonathan Hernandez, head baseball coach at Bethune-Cookman University. In what he described as the hardest thing he has ever done as a coach, he had to tell his team the baseball season would be canceled due to COVID-19.
The Daytona team had just finished up a game with Florida International University the day before the administration delivered the news. Hernandez said most players were shocked, and some even broke down in tears. “I really saw their vulnerability that day,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic ended the season for more than 50,000 college baseball players in March, after President Trump declared a national emergency. This left many with questions about what was to come. Some were in their last year of college eligibility, and others were just deemed draft-eligible.
“This was a tough pill to swallow for many,” said Greg Lovelady, head baseball coach at the University of Central Florida. A lot of his players needed this year for development. “You work your entire life as a ballplayer not just for the current year but for the following and the one after that,” he said.
Hear from the Players
2020 MLB Draft
Due to COVID-19, Major League Baseball (MLB) had to make alterations to its plans. The organization had planned to host the draft in Omaha from June 10 to 12. But because of the virus, those draft plans were changed.
The baseball draft ended up being held virtually in the MLB Network studios. Rounds were cut from 40 to 5. The league also limited undrafted players’ maximum signing bonus to $20,000. These two modifications really affected young baseball players who had hoped to get drafted. It also saved MLB teams about $30 million.
Logan Allen, 21, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round. Going into what was his last college season at Florida International University, Allen hoped to make regionals, be an All American and also be named the Conference USA Pitcher of the Year. All those goals were put on a shelf when Coach Mervyl Melendez told the Panthers the season was postponed and later canceled.
“I kind of knew in the back of my head that it was just over for good,” he said.
As far as the draft, Allen said he was in a very special position. He was projected to go in the first two rounds of the draft, and that is exactly what happened. Allen said he gets on a Zoom call with the Cleveland Indians every day but still has no concrete plans on when he will finally be able to take the field as an Indian. He is throwing and keeping his arm and body healthy in the meantime.
Freddy Zamora, 21, was in a completely different space than Allen.
Zamora wasn’t there when his team got the news of the season cancellation. He was in Miami receiving treatment after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) days before the University of Miami’s season opener.
“I heard the news on social media and was just honestly shocked,” said Zamora.
He said once he saw the MLB announce the draft would now be five rounds, he was disappointed. After undergoing knee surgery, he wasn’t sure what would come next because teams could question his abilities as a middle infielder.
“I just kept a positive mindset,” he said.
He ended up getting drafted in the second round by the Milwaukee Brewers. He is now in Arizona with the Brewers finishing up his knee rehabilitation and ready to show the team it drafted the right guy.
2019 Draft vs 2020 Draft
Recruiting Amidst a Pandemic
“This is going to be a really different time for all athletes moving forward,” said David Alonso, owner of Recruiting Edge, a business that specializes in giving athletes exposure in the college recruiting process.
Since there weren’t any tournaments or high school games being played, Alonso thought his business would go through a dry season. But he was wrong. Since the pandemic began, Recruiting Edge has had over ten clients commit to a college or university.
“I guess coaches don’t have much to do other than turn to the computer to look up recruits,” he said. Alonso has been receiving non-stop calls, and claims this is the busiest he has been in his five years of business.
It is still unknown if there will be baseball in 2021.
“We are going to continue to work as if there is a season,” said Bethune Cookman Hernandez.
Being patient seems to be the theme for athletics programs nationwide.