Asa Daniels, Campus Carrier staff writer
So far for the 2021 season, Berry baseball has a 6-2 overall win-loss record, with 1-2 in the conference. There are still 32 games to be played in April, with the SAA tournament starting on April 22. For head coach David Beasley, he is glad that the team is back on the field.
“The biggest thing is the excitement of the guys being ready to play when we get to the park and, you know, with COVID and all the things we’re going through as far as the testing and all that, they see how hard Berry [is] working to [give] us [this] opportunity, so the guys are just coming to the field with equal intensity,” Beasley said.
For Ben Coker, senior pitcher, this year has been about doing more than just playing games.
“It’s been a lot of diligence, making sure we’re doing everything we’re supposed to and all that just to ensure that everyone’s safe and nothing’s going on,” Coker said.
Tyler Calvert, senior at first base, is excited to be back with the team for another season.
“We’re bonding and we’re happy to be together, I mean, we’re just loving every minute because we’re just trying to take every moment as we can just because we don’t know what could happen, especially because of what happened last year and we’re looking forward to get this thing rolling,” Calvert said.
Having the season during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a unique challenge for the team. The biggest difference from a usual season has been that the team’s games only happen on the weekend, where they play four game series, with no midweek games. Beasley explained that this has made it difficult for the team to get into a rhythm in terms of their pitching and hitting. Another thing is that many of the players haven’t played a game since the season ended early in March 2020.
“You know, a lot of people hadn’t played in nine months,” Beasley said. “[It] has been, you know, a long time since we’ve been on the field, so we just really tried to make sure that all the small things were well taken care of before we started.”
When the season ended abruptly last March, the team was 13-5, number six in the conference. The shutdown of the season came as a major blow to the team.
“We were thinking that, you know, this was not going to be a big deal and then we’re literally on the bus to Mississippi and we’re watching, you know, the NBA cancelled, spring training cancelled and then it kind of sunk in,” Coker said. “So, it was really just like it was a real smack in the face, it all ended so quickly and then it was just the feeling of everything just [being] taken away so fast like that, [it] was just not what we expected the end to really be like last year.”
Another difficulty back in March was the general novelty of COVID-19, making the situation more confusing for the team.
“We didn’t know anything more about COVID than anybody did back then, all it was, we’re in a pandemic, so you know, we had to shut everything down,” Beasley said.
However, for Calvert, the end of the last season was most difficult for the seniors that year.
“We had four other [seniors] that did not come back and missing those guys and seeing their career end like that was really hard,” Calvert said.
That has now become a point of motivation for the team for this season.
“We’re really hopeful and we’re just playing for those guys that didn’t get that chance last year,” Calvert said. “And it’s a motivational point, not only on the field, but just to do what you can off the field too, just because we want to play for each other and I know the younger guys and all of us want to play for the seniors so that we do get this full season this year because we really control our own destiny at this point. Obviously, there’s some unexpected things that if something huge happens again we can’t control, but as long as we do what we were supposed to on and off the field and are responsible, I think we really do control our own destiny and that’s just about playing for each other.”
In terms of specific COVID- 19 restrictions, the team is trying to limit the size of their bubble to classes, team practices and close friends. Beasley explained that team members are expected to keep a small number of people in their bubble in order to limit the chances of shutting down the team through contact tracing, since they all practice together during the week. The team is tested twice a week.
“We just want to compete; we just want to play,” Beasley said. “If we win, we’re super excited, if we lose, as long as we put our best effort together that’s the only thing you can ask, but I mean, right now the hurdles that we have to jump through, to be honest with you, most of them are COVID related.”
Even with COVID-19, Beasley explained that a big goal is to try and provide as normal a season as possible for the players in the athletics department.
“I want us to do our dangest to make sure that this is as normal a year possible for all the seniors that we have, you know, the guys that are playing baseball or any sports in the athletic department, we want him to have as much normalcy as possible,” Beasley said.
For Beasley, the team this year has come up to this challenge to play baseball as best as they can.
“[We’ve] got a lot of young kids that are helping out and I got a lot of returners that are stepping up in big roles, so we just look more to those guys for good leadership and more to the team for making sure that we’re safe and giving us an opportunity to compete,” Beasley said.
Coker also shared a similar belief about the team this year as one with players ready to commit to the team.
“We have a lot of really strong pieces and then the best part is that, behind the strong pieces, we also have more strong pieces, so everyone’s got, you know, someone behind them pushing them and that usually is going to be a great team when you’ve got people in front leading and then the people behind them are pushing them to keep getting better,” Coker said.
Calvert echoed this sense of team commitment and unity in order for all players to improve through the season.
“Our focus is to get better every day and just play the best of our ability and give our best attitude and effort every inning of every game we play and just be behind each other every step of the way,” Calvert said.