All across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a curveball for athletes. Every level of baseball has been affected in some way.
Whether it be Little League, high school, or professionally; nobody has been immune to the changes that have been forced upon the sport.
For high school baseball players, there is a lot of pressure to perform and be looked at by college recruiters. Most of the time, this happens during a player’s sophomore or junior season.
Unfortunately, a lot of these prospective college athletes had their seasons torn from them due to the pandemic.
Now, many players are in a point of limbo where they have had the odds stacked against them.
The Loss of a Spring Season
The 2020 high school baseball season was completely lost for nearly every player in the United States. This was a devastating blow for these athletes, as this is usually an opportunity to showcase talent and have coaches see in-game action.
On top of this, all in-person college baseball recruiting has been suspended through January 1, 2021.
While the class of 2020 was nearly finished with the recruiting process, the classes of 2021 and 2022 are the most impacted.
“The big losers in all of this are the next two high school classes,” Milburn High School (NJ) head coach Brian Chapman said.
Where the class of 2020 will struggle is their acclimation with college teams. They will be brought into situations where rosters are overloaded due to the NCAA granting an additional year of eligibility.
Now, incoming freshman will have no senior season to go off of and will instantly be at a disadvantage.
“This year’s high school seniors are going to show up on college campuses and discover they came to replace players who haven’t left yet,” Middle Tennessee State University coach Jim Toman said.
Now, after many college fall seasons were either heavily altered or shortened, there is even more uncertainty for these players as they head into their first collegiate season.
Summer Baseball Finds a Way
While high school seasons were cancelled, summer ball was able to be played in different areas across the country.
Local leagues were formed in all kinds of formats, from a Sandlot style to organized games with umpires. Along with this, major showcases were still held to get players in front of college coaches.
Prep Baseball Report (PBR), for example, offered showcases where players could go against each other and show off their best tools. These were all equipped to stream the events for college coaches to virtually attend.
Some of these events had over 100 college coaches viewing the showcase.
Perfect Game was able to hold their National Showcase, where hundreds of the top high school prospects competed to earn a spot in the All-America game.
These show the willingness of these companies to adapt and offer players the chance to still play in front of college coaches.
It is clear that this generation of baseball players will be shaped by this pandemic. It has forced the sport to adapt in ways it hasn’t before.
With a vaccination on the horizon, the path to normal life may be forming.
However, there is a chance that this is yet another spring full of worry and fear of the unknown for high school players.
What is known now, though, is that COVID-19 will have a long-lasting impact on baseball. For prospective collegiate players, the pandemic has made changes to recruiting that will be seen for the next few years.