It was not exactly the start to the baseball season Joplin coach Kyle Wolf and Carthage coach Mike Godfrey expected.
But, truth be told, everyone was just happy to be on the field as the Eagles hosted the Tigers and Monett Cubs for a jamboree on Friday at the JHS Sports Complex.
“It is always a great opportunity to get on the field when we have this jamboree,” Wolf said. “You get to see a different opponent, and you get to see your guys perform in certain game situations that are hard to duplicate in practice.”
As far as the outcomes, Joplin defeated Carthage 7-6 to start the day before Monett defeated Carthage 3-1. In the final four-inning affair, Monett defeated Joplin 3-2.
And while all three teams are itching to get the regular season started, what is on the minds of many is the elephant in the room: will there even be a prep spring sports season?
Over the last 72 hours, the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. has prompted nearly every professional sports league currently in session to postpone or cancel its season. The NCAA followed the same path, canceling the rest of the winter sports season as well as the upcoming spring season.
As of now, though, the upcoming Missouri prep spring sports season is to be completed as scheduled, which was confirmed by a tweet from the Missouri State High School Athletic Association (MSHSAA) on Friday.
“The MSHSAA staff and Board of Directors have not made any alterations to the spring sports or activities season at this point,” the release read. “We are monitoring what is happening from the Missouri Department of Health, The Governor’s Office, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The situation is very fluid, but if it is determined to suspend any contests and practices, we will notify our schools with instructions and look at any adjustments to the by-laws to allow the postseason to be played.”
Knowing the upcoming season is in limbo, it sets up an unforeseen atmosphere that neither Wolf nor Godfrey has ever had to navigate in their coaching careers.
“The toughest thing is when your seniors come to you ask what you think is going to happen,” Wolf said. “The reality is, as a coach, you don’t know and you don’t really have an answer for them. The best answer I can give them is to just enjoy playing while they can, taking advantage of every moment on the field that we have.”
“That is a tough one because this is uncharted territory,” Carthage coach Mike Godfrey said when asked how he would handle explaining the season being canceled to his team. “We have never had to have that talk before. The thing that I would tell them is this is like a philosophy on life. Everyday is a gift.”
Joplin and Carthage are both scheduled to open the season on March 21. The plan for both teams is to move forward like the season will be played as normal.
“At the end of the day, we have to treat this like we are going to be out here all spring because, right now, we haven’t heard of a reason that we shouldn’t be thinking that way,” Wolf said. “This is unprecedented. I don’t think anyone has an answer or strategy on how to handle it because no one has ever been through this before. In terms of baseball, we always talk about controlling the controllables. A lot of this is out of our control. So, our focus turns to what we can control and let’s take advantage of that.”
Of course, while the spring season is to be played as scheduled at the moment, that can all change with one phone call. Whether that phone call is tomorrow, the day before the season starts or a week into the start of the season, the message from both coaches to their respective teams is simple.
“One of the things that we talked about was that there is no guarantee that we will get to play tomorrow,” Wolf said. “There are teams that are not getting this opportunity to play, and we do. We have to appreciate that and take advantage of it as much as possible.”
“It really does give you that last-day mentality,” Godfrey said. “You don’t know if you have another day or not. Right now, we don’t know how many we have left, so every day is big. We are just enjoying each other, enjoying the game and the opportunity we have.”