The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in different ways. For myself and most other people, it means sitting inside the house for hours on end, finding ways to pass the time without boring myself to death. But for some, the pandemic has a greater impact.
JJ Lamb is one of those people. Lamb, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, is in his fifth year with UW’s club baseball team and his fourth year playing for the team. Lamb also took over as the team president this year.
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But, Lamb’s season was cut short just a few weeks ago when the coronavirus took the U.S. by storm, shutting down schools, businesses and sports across the country.
In an interview I had with Lamb in mid-March, he described to me how the pandemic has affected the rest of the team’s spring season, which was just getting underway.
“I’m supposed to be in Florida right now for baseball,” Lamb said. “Every year our club goes down to Tampa, Florida and we play about 10 games between the two teams we have. It’s kind of like our version of spring training. It’s a pretty big thing to put together, considering how many guys we take down there, so the fact that the school canceled everything was a hassle.”
Club baseball plays a limited season, spanning from Florida in mid-March to the National Club Baseball Association’s World Series in North Carolina (Division I) and Kansas (Division II) in May.
While I played baseball from early elementary school through my high school years, I could tell Lamb was more passionate than most players I have encountered through the years, as he didn’t even make the team his first season.
“I tried out my freshman year and I was cut but I basically told them ‘no, I’m not done playing baseball,’ and I just kept showing up,” Lamb said. “So eventually I made the team my second year and now I’m the team president.”
Lamb’s dedication and passion for baseball stood out to me during the interview, but it was also clear how devastating the cancellation of much of his final season was to him.
As team president, he has taken on more duties in his senior year, including being a single point of contact for the 60-70 players trying out each season, as well as working with other club officers to reserve field time through RecWell, stay in contact with the league to create the schedule and report stats, get grants from UW and logistically plan throughout the season.
Despite all of this, Lamb’s season will end early with the pandemic taking over our daily lives.
“Our season is officially cancelled after we had a conversation with the Center for Leadership & Involvement (UW student org governing body), who officially restricted student org activities until May 15,” Lamb said.
With the cancellation of spring seasons across college sports, the NCAA recently granted an additional season of eligibility for spring athletes.
But since club sports are not technically a part of the NCAA, Lamb and other club athletes’ extra eligibility is up in the air at this point, meaning seniors and graduate students already participating in their fifth year in a club sport might not get another chance to play.
With sports canceled nationwide — and likely on the verge of being canceled worldwide — I feel student athletes across the nation on both varsity and club teams should be granted an extra year of eligibility. This would give seniors and graduate students a final chance to shine in what may be their final season in competitive sports.