Boston College men’s baseball’s flight to Raleigh to play a series against NC State had begun like most other road-game trips—complete with bonding moments and excitement to play an ACC matchup.
As of 8:30 that morning the game was still on, but news changes fast in a world turned upside down by a global pandemic. By late afternoon, not only was the game canceled, but the entire spring season was too.
“I told the guys that we should stop some place and get lunch,” said head coach Mike Gambino as other conferences were suspending their seasons. “By the time that lunch was over 45 minutes later, the weekend had been canceled.”
The baseball team continued to NC State to get in a lift and a practice, regardless of the uncertainty about the future of the season, but soon BC Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond gave word that the ACC was suspending the spring season and all team activity.
Gambino realized he needed to get his team back on the bus and headed back toward BC. Back on campus, Jarmond had gathered all the University’s athletes in the Power Gym in Conte Forum.
“He began by talking about how we would move forward and handle classes and the potential of an extension for spring athletes,” said senior lacrosse player Jill Reilly.
Mid-speech, Jarmond was handed a phone by his assistant athletic director. He collected his thoughts for a moment before announcing that the NCAA had canceled all spring sports for the remainder of the season.
Back on the baseball bus, word was quickly reaching the team through text messages from athletes back on campus. Before long, complete devastation had hit. Gambino gathered his players and told them they were going to have a team dinner like they always did. After they had finished, he walked them up the street to a Cold Stone Creamery and treated them to dessert.
“Ice cream isn’t much, but it makes things a little better,” said Gambino.
Senior Jack Cunningham tried to soak in his final team bonding moment as he gripped his cone of cookie dough ice cream, feeling the utter heartbreak of that moment. A lot of his younger teammates were offering support, but most of the senior athletes, Cunningham included, were realizing that not only was their time as athletes coming to an end, but so was their time as BC students.
“We really enjoyed those bonding moments,” said Cunningham. “But getting back to school and all-out celebrating the last weekend of school with the rest of the seniors helped to forget about baseball for a little.”
Like the senior baseball players, other senior athletes back on campus enjoyed their final moments together just with teammates before they got to celebrating with their fellow students.
While the spring season was canceled, so were all winter NCAA championships. Senior men’s hockey forward Zach Walker and the rest of his team, who were 24-8-2 on the season and No. 4 in the nation, would not be able to make its run at the title.
“We were sitting as a team, obviously upset about everything, and it all just felt like something out of a movie,” said Walker. “Martin [Jarmond] expressed how sorry he was, and everyone was looking at the floor as most guys were crying or near tears.”
As the senior athletes went off to partake in the faux Senior Week revelry, coach Gambino had to get back to business. Following BC’s move to online classes, the NCAA announced that all spring athletes would receive an extra year of eligibility.
“This announcement is huge, because it affects all class years,” said Gambino. “Think about it. This means we have two [senior] classes next year.”
Gambino had been discussing these changes with Jarmond, since with Birdball’s 35-man roster and 27 of those athletes on scholarship, some adjustments will have to be made. The same goes for programs around the country.
Gambino said he plans to handle this new change day by day. With or without transfer students, he said, next year’s lineup has potential to be in the top 10 in the country, especially if seniors such as Cunningham come back and play one more year. The Eagles were only 6-9 to start the year, but at the time the season was cancelled, the team was also riddled with injured players that were looking to make their return to the lineup shortly.
For now, Cunningham said he is unsure about his future. His plan had been to make an NCAA regional tournament and then get drafted, but changes to the MLB Draft this year have now limited the number of draftees. He continues working and hitting when he can during the lockdown, in order to stay on top of his game. He said he could potentially return to BC if his draft dreams fall through.
Women’s lacrosse, too, had high hopes this season, Reilly said. She played through three national championships and having fallen short in all three, she felt like this could be the year to “rewrite the narrative” and finally get that win her senior year. Although the team stumbled to a 4-3 record to start the season and lost to its lone ACC matchup against Notre Dame, the repeating national runner-up squad was looking to rack up some conference wins in the months to come.
For now Reilly is unsure, like Cunningham, about whether she will return for her extra year of eligibility. She continues to go on runs outside and play wall ball to focus on her stick work, and the team is still getting workouts from its athletic trainer online.
“This [quarantine] is a blessing in disguise, because it forces me to get outside and off the couch,” said Reilly.
If she doesn’t return to school next year, Reilly said she hopes to find a job in the sports industry. Reilly is a candidate for a corporate sales job with the Philadelphia Eagles, but if that falls through, she may continue to work toward a master’s degree.
Walker spent the first week home just sitting back and processing everything that had occurred in such a short span of time. He, too, hopes to now play professionally, but with leagues on hold across the world, he said he doesn’t know whether anyone has interest in him.
“Things are uncertain until later in the summer,” he said. “But I have to stay in shape so that when given the opportunity, I can be as prepared as possible.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Louisville Athletics