While sports teams across the country and world have ended their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that isn’t stopping the Mercer Baseball team from staying connected while apart.
For Luke Sutko, a junior majoring in business management and a sidearm pitcher for the team, the season being canceled was a harsh reality.
“To have the majority of the season stolen from me is definitely one of the more challenging things I’ve had to overcome,” he said.
For Sutko, missing baseball is more than a loss of the game.
“What I miss the most about baseball is seeing my teammates,” he said. “You spend countless hours every day on and off the field with your team. They actually feel like they are your brothers.”
Despite not physically being close, the men are able to stay connected virtually, and they know they will see each other soon.
The “majority of the team is coming back for next year, so we are all very motivated to push each other every day to get better,” Sutko said. They also joke around with each other on group chat, he said.
Just like with schoolwork, changes have been made to baseball training to adapt to life at home.
“Coach (Jeff) Ward is doing a great job by sending us workout packets to keep us in shape and to continue working out,” Sutko said.
Baseball head coach Craig Gibson also was shocked and disappointed by the loss of the season.
“(For) these guys, it’s sort of more than just a game,” Gibson said.
For most of the men on Mercer’s team, playing baseball means year-round daily workouts, including lifting weights. In addition, many play baseball in the summer.
“The day we announced we weren’t playing, I think we had 13 or 14 guys sitting here crying, didn’t know what to do,” Gibson said.
Gibson said the coaches primarily are staying focused on the athletes’ academics.
“We probably reach out once or twice a week to all the guys about academics just trying to, you know, stay on top of everything,” he said.
Gibson knows baseball will still be there after this semester.
“I want them to make the best grades they can, and my philosophy is we’ll catch them up on (the) sport,” he said.