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SW Va. coaches ponder options for players to play — when time comes

Kevin Mays • Apr 20, 2020 at 4:00 PM

COEBURN — No matter where you go in Southwest Virginia, the story is the same.

High school baseball fields, softball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts and tracks all stand empty — no players, no coaches, no officials, no parents, no spectators.

Like in other corners of the country, all have been idled by the coronavirus pandemic, one of thousands of tentacles the outbreak has extended to interrupt normal life.

“It’s different,” Eastside coach Chris Clay said. “I’m 41 years old and this is the first spring since I was 4 or 5 that I’ve not been involved with baseball in some way.

“I don’t know if anyone has a point of reference on how to deal with this. It’s unprecedented,” Clay continued. “As a coach, as a parent, you can usually find somebody that has dealt with almost any situation. But not with this situation. No one has dealt with something like this. Sometimes an individual player has to miss a season because of an injury and that’s sad enough. But nothing like this.

“I really hate it for the seniors. I mean the underclassmen are going to miss a season but it’s really hurtful for the seniors. Unfortunately, it’s a difficult life lesson for everyone to not take things for granted.”

BACKUP PLANS

Though the season was wiped out, Clay said possibilities remain for the players, even the high school seniors, such as a summer baseball league.

“I think some things like that are on the table,” he said. “There are some options out there.”

Should the tamping down of the outbreak clear the way to allow athletes to participate in sports this summer, Clay said something will be done for youngsters to play the American pastime.

“My plan right now is that if there are kids that want to practice and play, I’m going to make that happen for them,” the coach said.

Clay said there have been talks among himself and other coaches in the region interested in seeing baseball being played.

Among the options being explored are taking a couple of teams from Southwest Virginia to play in tournaments in the Tri-Cities and forming a league that would consist of four or more teams from far Southwest Virginia.

Clay said the teams could form from a hybrid of high school squads.

“We may have four kids from Eastside that want to play and four kids from Norton and maybe four kids from Castlewood. So we could put those kids together and form a team,” Clay said.

Another option could be organized pick-up or sandlot-type games on weekends.

Clay said about 15 years ago some players from separate schools would meet at different fields throughout the summer. The players then divided up into teams to compete.

The main thing, Clay said, is that players who want to play get that chance should the opportunity arise.

THE GOOD WITH THE BAD

The loss of high school spring sports is devastating to many, but Clay said there is another side to the story.

“It’s a big deal and it stinks,” Clay said. “But there is a bigger picture. This thing means different things for different people. A lot of people and getting to spend more time with their families and that’s good.”

Clay’s message to his players and others is simple.

“You can only control things that you can control,” he said. “This is something that we can’t control, but there are things we can do.

“What’s the saying, ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop’? There are things we can do like read more or learn how to play an instrument.”

Patience is key, Clay said.

“We can either have a negative approach to all this or we can be positive and take advantage of the time we have to do other constructive things,” he said. “We are going to come out of this. And I don’t think it will be that different when we get back to the field.”

Until then, Clay plans to keep making the best of a bad situation.

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