May 20: My junior varsity softball season gets the Mercy Rule on account of COVID-19 pandemic

Sophomore+Grace+Johnson+%28center%29+shares+a+moment+with+some+of+her+teammates+after+one+of+their+last+practices+on+Feb.+12.

Sophomore Grace Johnson (center) shares a moment with some of her teammates after one of their last practices on Feb. 12.

Grace Johnson

LIVING UNDER THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

This is part of a series of columns about students’ various experiences during the school closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to submit some of your experiences, please email us at [email protected].

“That’s ball game!” said the umpire. 

My team jogged off the softball field on March 11, heads hung low and disappointed in ourselves. 

Because I had been playing outfield for that specific game, I was sprinting all the way from left field to the visitor’s dugout thinking about the devastating loss we just experienced.

I was thinking to myself about the speech we were going to get from our coach and wondering how many times we’d have to run around the bases or how many laps we were going to run for our errors.

Little did I know that I wouldn’t get a chance to redeem myself from that game because that would be my last one for the 2020 season. 

Later Friday night during our team bonding party at a teammate’s house — what would turn out to be the last time for us to see each other in one room — our coach told us that all of our games would be canceled until further notice because of the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

I was shocked at how well my team took that information with ease. At the moment, we did not want to think about the negative side so we didn’t talk about it much at all.

So I noticed that we did what we do best and enjoyed our time together knowing we wouldn’t see each other for a while. We truly did fulfill the purpose of a team and bonded to the maximum, sharing so many memories and laughs.

Of course, it was gloomy and dark outside that day, but that did not stop us from going outside and ruining our team bonding. We played ping pong, danced and sang in the rain and some of us even jumped into the pool despite the cold weather from the rain. 

This made me already miss the times we shared together and reminded me of our dugout conversations.

There, we would mainly focus on the game, but we had our moments in which we would chew on different combinations of sunflower seed flavors or chant at the top of the lungs ‘til we eventually laughed so hard it made our heads hurt. 

We would sing, “Empire State of Mind,” by JAY-Z and Alicia Keys when shortstop, junior Kayla Lozada — a first-year transfer student from the Big Apple — was up to bat.

In New York / Concrete jungles where dreams are made of / There’s nothin’ you can’t do / Now you’re in New York …” 

We couldn’t get through the whole chorus without laughing. 

Just like the majority of the world, as schools closed down and we went to a distance learning model, my coaches did not exactly know what would come next or what would become of our season, and neither did the athletes. 

News updates about the coronavirus have been changing every day like how severe this pandemic really was, and our school went from temporarily shutting down for a few weeks to closing for the rest of the school year.

Although my JV softball team has still kept in touch and communicated with each other through texts and weekly Zooms, I still miss my girls. We had just begun our preseason and had started to get the hang of things having played only five games together with almost 15 games left. 

As a sophomore who only played in city league, this would have been my second season playing at the high school level. 

During my quarantine time at home, I have been throwing the ball around with my dad a few times in our front yard in the afternoon to keep my arm still in shape, but I feel empty while catching a ball from my dad.

Not that he can’t throw, but it’s not the same without my teammates. I have not gone to any batting cages to practice my batting yet because of the fear that COVID-19 could still infect someone no matter what the age level.

To stay in shape, I’ve also been doing little workouts here and there such as going for jogs with my dog, and I have been motivating myself by telling myself that I would walk back onto a softball field again soon. 

It’s obvious that I miss my team and my coach — the crazy bus rides and dugout shenanigans. 

We would jam out to our softball playlist I had made for the team on the bus to get pumped up for our game. We would rap, for example, to old Justin Beiber songs because we wanted a variety of song genres that everyone on the team would enjoy.

I believe that my team and I are going to come back even stronger next season and not take every practice and game for granted. Now that I know what it is like to have softball taken away from me just like that, I have come to a new appreciation for this game, motivating myself to give it my all next season.

It’s hard to imagine how other professional athletes are handling their season being canceled given that their sport is their lives. I could not imagine just having your whole life’s work be put on hold.

I joined softball at Sunny Hills because of my love and passion for the game, but what kept me motivated throughout practices and the season was my team. 

So here’s to my team! I know we will be back on the field again sometime throwing the ball around, laughing up a storm. I can’t wait to hug you guys, chant at the top of my lungs with you from the dugout and play this beautiful, emotional sport with you guys by my side. I love my teammates, and I believe I’ll see them on the field again.  

I can’t wait for that moment when I get to hear the umpire say, “Play ball!”