On March 12, I was on a bus to Alabama. Everyone knew COVID was a thing. The NBA famously postponed their season the night before, but the NBA plays in packed arenas while we played in mostly empty baseball stadiums. Over 40 members of the Florida Southern baseball team, including myself, boarded that bus to Montevallo expecting to play baseball. On March 14, I pulled into my driveway in Houston, Texas hoping I’d be back in Lakeland in a month. I’d take my finals in person, clean out my baseball locker, and then head back home for the summer.
We’ve made it to October, and I still haven’t been back to Lakeland. Zoom classes have become the new norm. I face the same challenges academically that every other remote learner faces at Florida Southern. However, I have a different challenge that some people don’t face. I have to handle training for a season with no teammates to train with.
In a normal fall semester, our baseball team would practice five days a week and lift weights four days a week. The fall season is the time where position battles are settled, players get in tip-top shape, and teammates get to know each other. It’s a period of growth, where players and coaches work closely on technique. Now, remote learners are faced with the task of doing all of these things on their own, or face the risk of falling behind.
It’s been really tough. I’d obviously prefer being in Florida with my teammates, but I’m doing everything I can to make sure I’m ready to go for the spring and I’m just hoping we have a season and play,” said Mike DeSanti, a pitcher on the FSC baseball team.
DeSanti is from Long Island, NY one of the areas hit hardest by COVID-19 in the early stages. The local governments were strict in New York, so just finding a place to work out wasn’t so easy.
“It was extremely tough at first, but luckily places have started to reopen and I’m getting my throwing in and doing what I need to do,” DeSanti said.
My experience was similar to DeSanti’s. While Houston’s COVID-19 protocols were certainly less strict than Long Island’s, I didn’t have a place to go for two months. The local gym was shut down for the entirety of March and April, I wasn’t allowed into my high school to hit and most cages were also closed.
Things began to change in May: everywhere I was used to going for my training started to slowly reopen, albeit with strict protocols. I now lift four days a week and get baseball activity in four to five days a week. I genuinely feel like I have a normal student athlete workload with limited free time. The Florida Southern trainers have been replaced with a physical therapist, the strength coaches with a personal trainer, and my teammates with a litany of other collegiate athletes in the same boat I am from schools across the country.
This year has been unique for everyone, but there may not be anything more unique in the athletic spectrum than remote learning athletes. Every athlete is 100 responsible for themselves. This time, there might actually be an ‘I’ in ‘team.’