With West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s announcement about winter sports being allowed to begin practices on February 14 and games to begin on March 3, the thoughts now turn to spring sports.
When will they be allowed to begin?
The WVSSAC is reportedly still working on that plan, but likely, it will be mid-April before we will see area baseball and softball teams hit the diamond.
“We’re still worried that when time comes when basketball takes off he will push it back even further,” Man baseball coach Mike Crosby said.
Man’s baseball team had originally been scheduled to begin its season on March 18.
Crosby said Man’s baseball schedule will be altered with originally slated March games likely to be added on at the end of the season.
“I haven’t changed it up yet,” Crosby said. “There’s a couple of coaches I haven’t been in touch yet. Most of the games that are in March will be put on the back end of the schedule. I’m hearing that we will be able to play our first game in the second week of April.”
One of the casualties of Man’s baseball season will be the Myrtle Beach, S.C., trip.
The Hillbillies were originally slated to play April 6-9 in the Mingo Bay Classic.
“That’s been canceled,” Crosby said of the trip. “That’s one thing that I picked up when I used to be an assistant coach at Logan. I really enjoyed going down there to Myrtle Beach with the team. So when I got to Man that’s what I wanted to do. But we just haven’t been able to do it again.”
Man is expected to have a good baseball team this spring, but with the basketball season’s state tournament to be played in mid-April, there will be an overlap.
Man’s stacked basketball team is likely to make it to the Class A state tournament and three of the players, including Caleb Blevins, are members of the baseball squad.
That would mean he, and the others, would be joining the baseball team late after the required 14 practices are logged.
“We should have a really good team,” Crosby said. “But the problem right now is that the season is going to overlap about four weeks. It’s going to hurt both Man and Logan. Both have a shot at going to the state tournament in basketball so I’ll be without three of my players for several weeks of the season. So will Logan. If both goes to the state tournament we won’t get our players until the first week of May. Logan, I think, has six guys playing basketball and we have about three.
“All three are all good players but one of the three is Caleb Blevins, a junior who just verbally committed to play Division I baseball at Radford. We would get him and the other two with about two or three weeks left in the season. You’d like to have more time with them to get their arms ready going into sectional play.”
Man’s entire 2020 baseball season was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Billies move back down to Class A status this season.
Man had a lot of success in their last go-round as a Single-A school, winning the 2014 Class A state championship with a 12-10, extra-inning win over Clarksburg Notre Dame. The Billies were the 2009, 2010 and 2015 state runner-ups.
Man last played in 2019 where the Billies sported a 15-9-1 record.
The Billies were a Class AA school from 2017-20.
Not playing last year was a big blow to Man, which had expected to field a sound baseball team.
“It will always been known as the season of could-have-beens or the season of what ifs,” said Man coach Mike Crosby last year. “It’s pretty heart-breaking. This is definitely nothing that I’ve ever been through. Our seniors were devastated. We had everything last year. We had speed, power and pitching. On paper, we had was appeared to be a complete ball team for the first time since I’ve been at Man. We’ve had some really good players but this was across the board. I did not see us being weak at any position.”
Man had steadily improved in recent years, always having a young ball club.
“The last several years we had a very young ball club,” Crosby said. “You always knew that the future was going to be bright at every spot with depth but they were still young and still developing. We had a very good off-season. These guys really took the initiative to work hard during the off-season going into the season. They knew from the previous few years that this was going to be the year that they felt that they could do something.”
Crosby said Gov. Justice has woefully handled the whole COVID-19 crisis and many inconsistencies abound.
“To me, there is absolutely no common sense,” he said. “If you are going to stick 20 to 25 kids in a classroom starting on the January 19, why can’t you put 10 players and two officials on a 90 x 60 basketball court?” Crosby said. “It’s not the WVSSAC’s fault. Gov. Justice has all of these press conferences and he doesn’t even get any advice from them. He just goes out there and says what he wants to say.
“Gov. Justice is a coach himself and I’m not sure if he’s delaying the season because he doesn’t want to coach his team or he’s delaying it because of COVID reasons so he doesn’t have to coach his team. Then you hear him make a crack and says, ‘If I haven’t done anything this last year at least I’ve made you laugh a few times.’ No, you don’t make me laugh one bit. He canceled the baseball season last year. Not the SSAC. The governor did. He interfered with football. He came up with a chart that was a Harvard model and he changed it 500 times just to suit whatever party is griping. No, he hasn’t made me laugh one bit. I believe that if everyone knew he was going to do all of this he would have lost the election.”
Other surrounding states such as Kentucky and Ohio have been playing basketball and Crosby said there was no reason why West Virginia couldn’t have started on time with limitations and protocols.
“These coaches would be extra careful,” Crosby said. “He griped the other day about the protesters wanting to play then putting crowds in the stands. We have the ability with Video Productions to stream the games to everyone can watch the games from home. The parents can sit in the stands spaced out, parents only. So he can’t play that card. The bottom line is that he’s a coach. He coaches the girls’ team at Greenbrier East. If his team is bad and he doesn’t want to coach it then why take it out on the Man Hillbillies that are absolutely loaded this year. Nothing makes sense and nothing he says makes any sense.”