mindset

Montrose High School’s Jeremy Alcazar connects on a pitch on May 2 against Grand Junction Central last season. Alcazar is one of seven seniors hoping to play the season in 2020 after CHSAA postponed spring sports until April 18. (Andrew Kiser/ Montrose Daily Press)

It seemed like a casual Thursday afternoon on March 12 for Dillon Shaw and Trey Schwerdtfeger. Their first spring baseball game of 2020 at Montrose High School was hours away. The team prepared several months for this moment, as all teams do.

But March 12 wasn’t your typical Thursday for Colorado spring sports.

As the athletes sat in their classrooms, dressed in gear and anxious to play their first game of 2020, the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) announced the postponement of the spring sports season, effectively bringing high school sports to a halt until April 6 due to precautions surrounding coronavirus.

“It was crazy because we were all ready to go,” Dillon Shaw said. “We had a team dinner the night before. That day we started hearing that it could be cancelled. It was shocking. I didn’t really believe it until I heard from [Head coach Landon Wareham] what happened.”

Schwerdtfeger shared Shaw’s sentiment.

“My first reaction was that someone was lying to me,” Schwerdtfeger said. “I’m a guy that really loves baseball. I got a new glove and I’ve been walking around the halls with it trying to break it in.

“When I got a text from [Wareham] around lunch, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe they were actually postponing games.”

Five days later, on March 17, CHSAA announced they were extending the break to April 18. Included in CHSAA’ s announcement was the encouragement for schools to set stricter standards for social gatherings outside of school, including practices. The team doesn’t plan to have a full squad practice, but they have completed drills individually with 10 players or fewer.

Before the announcement on March 17, though, the shock came and went for the players. The extended break didn’t discourage the seniors, and younger players, from getting work in. They organize practice on weekdays, if weather permits.

“We’ve separated the infielders and outfielders,” Shaw said. “Working on drills. Putting it all together and doing in-and-out (drills) to keep our skills fresh.”

Even the younger players show up, learning from the example the seniors are setting.

“They've done a really good job of showing up and being committed and showing up to practices and stuff,” Shaw said. “It's hard for them to cause you never know what the season is going to be like. The young guys are doing a good job of being there and getting better every day.”

With the coaches not allowed to be in contact with the athletes, practices with 10 or fewer players have a different feel than the players are used to. After all, coaches help keep the athletes accountable and are there to help them improve everyday not just as players, but individuals as well.

“It is pretty hard,” Shaw said. “I don't think we realize how much the coaches do for us. Keeping us accountable, helping us get better. They really help us with all that stuff. It's really on us to keep each other accountable. It's been different for sure but we're trying to make the most of it.”

“Having the coaches is definitely easier,” Schwerdtfeger said. “It's not easy to corral a bunch of guys and get them to stick with the program. It's hard without a coach.”

There was much confusion after the March 12 announcement on how practices would work. Would players practice on their own? Who was going to throw batting practice?

Those worries were silenced quickly when one senior decided to lead the charge and organize practice meet-ups: Schwerdtfeger.

“I like to show people that it's not over,” Schwerdtfeger. “I don't want people to think that it's over. I really have hope that we will have part of the season.”

Schwerdtfeger indicated structure is the key element to staying sharp and staying ahead of the curve. But in times like these, perspective is key. The safety and health of everyone involved comes before the game.

“It really is a serious issue,” Schwerdtfeger said. “If people are going to say we can't play baseball at this point in time then that's what we should do.”

The postponement is a different feel for the coaches, too. Wareham understands preparation has been halted, but he and his staff are focused on taking care of their families and staying optimistic.

“As a staff, we're, first off, getting answers for our families and the risks associated,” he said. “It gets complicated in preparation because you're not allowed to be around the [athletes] and correct them and work on things. You generally would without a pandemic going on.

“In all things moving forward it's gonna require a huge amount of flexibility. It's gonna take some different thoughts and different approaches. Hopefully in a few weeks, the country is safe enough,” he added.

In the meantime, Schwerdtfeger and Shaw are focused on being strong examples for the upcoming group of MHS Indians.

“We need to be good examples for the younger guys,” Shaw said. “Keep working hard. Stay one one one with throwing and hitting to get better everyday.”

The 2020 season is not lost at this point in time. Staying safe, pushing improvement, and sticking together will be the team’s M.O as they await word on the future.

“For these young guys they need to understand that it can change instantly,” Schwerdtfeger said. “They can't just sit back and relax. And they aren't at all. They're coming out because they want to get better.

“That's gonna show that Montrose baseball isn't just here. It's here to compete.”

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