Massachusetts Maritime Academy head baseball coach Mike Kelley said his team was on the bus ride back from Nichols College when he received disappointing news.
“I told them all to meet me in the locker room for a couple minutes, though with everyone on their phones on the bus ride back, I think they had an idea of what was going on,” said Kelley, who is also the academy’s athletic director.
The long-time skipper of the Buccaneers had the tough task of informing his team that the 2020 spring season was canceled in the wake of the cononavirus outbreak. At that point, however, there was still a shadow of hope that the season would continue.
“We were still in school at that point. I think that was on Wednesday [March 11]. I told them that it would likely get worse before it got better,” he said.
Despite navigating through what Kelley described as “uncharted territory”—a frequently used phrase as of recent—he was correct. Before the week was over, the academy closed its doors and opted for online classes, with students going home and out-of-conference games and MASCAC and Little East Conference games falling to the wayside.
“My heart breaks for the seniors. These guys may never play baseball again. They’re going to be working on ships. They may never swing a bat again,” Kelley said, speaking as a coach in reference to his team. “And to the underclassmen, I think we were on the verge of building something special. I just told them to keep the needle moving and keep building this thing together.”
Switching back to his athletic director’s role, he continued to express his sympathies for the rest of the spring teams. The women’s lacrosse team started off the season with a 3-1 record and boast the type of offensive potency to do damage in the postseason. The men’s lacrosse team had just kicked off its first season in the Little East Conference. The softball team had turned over a new leaf, handing the head coaching reins over to Willis Griffiths while unveiling the recently renovated Rollins Field.
On the track and field team, junior Colin McCabe had aspirations of an NCAA Division III National Championship put on hold until next season. As a sophomore, McCabe placed third in the country in the shot put, with the two athletes ahead of him graduating last spring.
“He had a legitimate shot at a national title this year,” Kelley said of McCabe.
Sophomore Brady Bailey was looking to improve on his school records set last season in the 100-meter and 200-meter events. Kelley went on to add that the sailing team was looking for a repeat trip to the Bermuda race this spring, while the crew team had eight events set up this season.
“[With not having a winter sports season] everyone was looking forward to the spring season,” Kelley said.
Though there may not be any practices to work through or games to be played, Kelley said he’s been keeping busy. One of the ripple effects of high school seasons being postponed—in the case of the MIAA, spring sports won’t begin until April 27—will be recruitment.
“This is typically the time with baseball, softball, and lacrosse that we’d get out to see these kids play,” Kelley said. “We’re trying to figure out how to go about that now. It’ll be very interesting how far this thing pushes everything back.”
He went on to opine that many college coaches from all over will have a deepened interest in summer leagues, like American Legion baseball or AAU-like travel leagues.
“Everything from here on out is unprecedented,” he said. “I’m just sad for the seniors that couldn’t finish out there careers.”