NAIA Baseball Players Speak Out on COVID-19 Stoppage

by Reese Becker

With the rapid spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), all sports are currently on hold. That extends to NAIA Baseball, as the NAIA has canceled all spring sports, including the 64th annual World Series.

WHAC Options

In the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, home to Lourdes University (Ohio), play for all spring sports was canceled due to COVID-19. This left players without the balance of their season or postseason. At the time of cancellation, Lourdes was 7-7. Senior Glen Crabtree started all 14 games for the Gray Wolves, hitting .358 with 19 hits, 11 RBI and two homers. Crabtree, a 5th year senior, came back for an extra season after an injury cost him his original senior season.

“Last year I tore my labrum in my throwing shoulder,” Crabtree says. “I rehabbed really hard and was having a great season and now it’s over out of nowhere. It feels like I got cheated but it’s not anyone’s fault, it just sucks”. Crabtree is not sure of his next option, saying, “Indy ball is a possibility. And it depends on the financial package with grad school, I might have to transfer.”

Senior Travel

Diego Quinones, a senior catcher from Calumet College of St. Joseph, was waiting for his senior day game so his family could see him play for the first time since his freshman season. The Crimson Wave, a part of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, has suspended all athletic events until further notice, putting Quinones’ season in jeopardy.

“I came from Puerto Rico to play ball here,” Quinones commented. “I came here at 17 years old with a mentality of trying to make myself better every day and show my mom I could do it. It’s sad how I cannot finish my senior year and cannot see my family on Senior Day so I can tell my mom ‘I did it.’”

At the time of stoppage, Quinones was 6-6 with six saves and no earned runs in his senior season, his first pitching for the Crimson Wave. At the plate, Quinones was hitting for a .269 average and had driven in nine runs.

Midwest Ball

When the American Midwest Conference decided to cancel all upcoming activities and conference championships, it ended Austin Tate’s season. Tate, a junior at Williams Baptist University, had finally gotten the call up to varsity in 2019, pitching in one inning for the Eagles. In 2020, Tate was going to get more innings and a bigger chance to shine. A shoulder injury cost him the first few weeks and he had just started to dress and travel with the team before the AMC shut down the spring sports.

“I don’t even know how to explain how it feels. Like we all knew something was gonna happen, but I figured we would just get postponed for a few weeks and then everything would just go back to normal,” Tate exclaimed. “But outta nowhere we got canceled and there’s no word on if anyone gets another year of eligibility or anything yet. The best way I can describe how I feel is that I feel robbed”. Tate says he will be back next season. “I am definitely returning next year,” Tate said. “I’m just gonna play it by ear and pray that everyone gets granted an extra year of eligibility. Just gonna take a few days to grasp everything then go into offseason stuff.”

“Pretty Much Over”

Another AMC school, Columbia College, was a casualty of the spring sports shutdown. That could cost Lane Threlkeld his baseball future. Threlkeld, a senior at Columbia, had pitched in eight games for the Cougars this season, amassing 8.2 innings, 10K, and a 6.52 ERA.

“It wasn’t just a season that was interrupted, it was a whole career,” Threlkeld said. “My dad retired from his job and my parents put our house up for sale just so I could continue my baseball career. Columbia College was starting back up their baseball program after 35 years. 16 other guys and I took a leap of faith and committed to CC.”

“I gained 30 pounds after my freshman year and threw 82 MPH over the top. (As a) righty, I knew I was never going to play if I stayed like that,” Threlkeld explained. “I went from 250 pounds to 200 pounds – I love this game, I love my teammates. My season, as well as 16 of my teammates, and probably thousands of other student athletes’ seasons, have been cut short. I want another year. I want another year for my teammates and everyone else that has worked their whole lives to play this game.”

“(My career is) pretty much over. There’s summer ball for giggles, but it’s pretty much over.”

Draft Stock

Colton Williams, the reigning NAIA Pitcher of the Year, was in the middle of another stellar season, going 5-0 with a 0.61 ERA so far in the 2020 campaign.

Williams is the ace of the staff at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. The Drovers have an 18-1 record and are second in the national rankings.

“It’s unfortunate that something out of everyone’s control is ending careers prematurely,” Williams said. “I’m a senior and it’s hard to know that I don’t get to play out every single game for my last collegiate season. There’s always going to be a what-if for a lot of guys and it sucks. All we want to do is play with our brothers and we can’t. I think we’re all very frustrated and sad.”

Williams could be a player drafted in this season’s MLB Draft. In 2019, Williams pitched to a 16-0 mark with a 1.33 ERA while striking out 136 batters.

“I don’t think this will have too much of an impact on us necessarily. Our guys are good, and if you’re good, you’re gonna get seen and get an opportunity,” Williams exclaimed. “However, for some, this is their last ride, and it’s upsetting seeing these guys walking off the field for the last time. It shows you to really appreciate the time you have now because in an instant it can all change.”

In an email from NAIA President Jim Carr to NAIA members, it was stated that “No spring sports athletes will be charged with a year of competition.”

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