Like that Oregon State Beavers The baseball team went through the first media availability of the season on Tuesday, there was talk of chemistry, comebacks and the ecstasy of returning to Goss Stadium after 10 months away.
There was also talk of PCR testing, masking protocols and maintaining a tight bubble outside the field.
As with everything these days, the threat is about coronavirus wondering. And after living through an abrupt and painful cancellation of the 2020 season, the Beavers will not easily step into 2021.
Armed with a deep and loaded list that returns all but two players from last season – and the healthy return of the ace-right hand Kevin abel – Oregon State has ambitions to compete for another College World Series championship. But these ambitions will largely depend on Beaver’s ability to avoid coronavirus – related problems that have besieged college football and college basketball, adding that players must live safe, smart and victims like never before.
“We are all men here, and we are treated like me,” he said Jake mulholland so. “So that means personal responsibility. If guys want to make bad decisions, they can do it. But all of us here, we owe it to ourselves and our teammates and Beaver Nation to make sure we’re smart. And we’ve done a really good job with it so far. We know what we have in front of us, and we all try to make the best of it and be very smart. “
So far, the Beavers have not met a positive COVID-19 test through official baseball activities, including 45 days of fallball, off-season group training and the season’s first practices.
But they tolerated positive cases after the holiday, coach Mitch canham said the players spread to their hometowns to be with family and old friends. The positive tests, combined with those connected via contact tracking protocols, sent a swarm of Beavers in quarantine in January. Those who were connected to tracking protocols eventually tested negative, but the nervous experience just before the start of the season started a reality check about the challenges ahead.
“That guy taught us a lot about, while being around other groups, and when we’re out of our bubble, it can be a problem,” Canham said. “It simply came to our notice then. No one will deliberately get sick. So there is more of, they actually feel very safe here, especially here in a university town, Corvallis. We all knew when we got back to campus … that there would be some risk there. But right now, these guys are here to become better men, better students, better athletes, and they’s also very bubbling in. “
Everyone associated with the program – from coaches to players to coaches – is tested once a week. And when the games start feb. 19 with an eight-game, 10-day trip to Arizona, they must undergo further testing at least 48 hours before the first pitch (for home matches) and at least 48 hours before flights (for road games).
Baseball is not considered a “high-risk” sport, so it does not have the same dangers in the game as football and especially basketball. But there is a risk when players get involved in the clubhouse, dugout and bullpen. To reduce this risk, players and coaches are required to wear masks as they leave the field and enter one of these three areas. In addition, Canham said, OSU coaches encourage players to limit their time in the clubhouse before training, to dress and take the pitch as quickly as possible.
It goes against everything Canham believes because it hinders invaluable off-the-field interaction that helps build team chemistry, a hallmark of Beaver’s baseball program. But it is also a necessary layer of security.
“Culture and clubhouse; it is a very valuable thing, ”said Canham. “You get boys together, you get to know each other, you get to share meals. Well, a lot of it right now, we do not market that part of it. I love sitting down across the table and sharing a sandwich and talking about life off the field. This is how you get better. But at the same time, especially right now when we are in the three week window of the start of the season, (we) isolate ourselves a little to who we live with at home. ”
The coaching staff has had several conversations with players about living safely and avoiding interaction with people outside the baseball bubble. If they need an example to follow, look no further than Canham, who said he recently had to tell his father – who lives a few miles across Interstate 5 – that face-to-face visits would be suspended indefinitely to help protect the team.
“If you’re testing positive right now, you’re out for a couple of weeks,” Canham said. “So our job now is to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to be competitive and not test positive, so that we do not spread it to anyone else.”
But while the guidance and reminders are useful, they are also unnecessary, the players say. The coronavirus outbreak sabotaged the 2020 season after just 14 games in March last year – when the Beavers had to quickly get out of a commercial jetliner just before heading to Tucson – and there was doubt throughout the season whether this season would happen.
Beavers need no extra motivation to protect the season ahead.
“We know we have an opportunity ahead of us … and now that we’re only 16, 17 days out, it’s in our hands,” Kyler mcmahan so. “Now we just have to make sure we follow all the protocols, not hang out with random people, just do the normal things that everyone in the community does to keep us safe so we can get back to a season.”
Added to Abel: “Our priority is always baseball, not the college experience. So it has not really been too much of a problem for us. I do not want to say that it is a big sacrifice. Our focus and priority is baseball. ”
When it comes to “culture and clubhouse” Canham fears he will lose, it sounds like second-year coach has little cause for concern.
Several players have the espionage of Beavers’ culture and chemistry as defining features of this team. Mulholland and Abel went so far as to say that it is compared to favorable for the 2018 club, which won a championship.
And in a surprising fate, says Beavers COVID-19 and the challenges it has caused, have contributed to their proximity.
“This is my fifth year now, and this is exactly where the 2018 team is,” said Mulholland. “Maybe COVID had something to do with it. We were all kind of put in a situation together … that we had no control over. And all we could really do was figure out how we wanted to respond to it, and we decided we were going to stay in our bubble, hang out with the guys on our team, not go out and make stupid decisions. And I think it just made everyone a little bit closer and gave us all a purpose. “