Spring athletes can only wait, hope

Dover coach Dave Gordon said he was looking forward to seeing Dover’s combination of returning standouts and upperclassmen who were going to get their first chance to start. (File photo)

Jeff Gravatt was driving somewhere on Monday morning when he started thinking about baseball.

In a perfect world, his Caesar Rodney High baseball team would be getting ready to open the season with a showdown at Dover this afternoon.

But, of course, it’s not a perfect world right now.

“It really hit me this morning,” Gravatt said. “I was just thinking, ‘Man, it’s Monday. How different would I feel if none of this had happened?’

“Man, I’d be so pumped up, so ready to go, so fired up. Dover and us have played one-run games so many times in the last five or six years. It’s an exciting event. It’s always the biggest game of the year for my kids. And we were getting to play that game on opening day, which would have made it even more special.

Under normal circumstances, CR coach Jeff Gravatt would have been opening their season against Dover on Monday. (File photo)

“I know if I was feeling that,” he added, “the kids were definitely feeling that as well today. I’m sure they were.”

The start of the high school spring sports season in Delaware this week is just another casualty of the world’s struggle with the coronavirus.

Monday was the first day that games would have been played around the state.

The Dover-CR baseball matchup was just one of hundreds of contests on tap for this week. But it’s an example of why people are disappointed.

It’s the first time anybody can remember the rivalry game being scheduled as the opener. The Riders and Senators were also slated to open against each other in softball and boys’ and girls’ lacrosse over the next couple days.

Both Dover coach Dave Gordon and Gravatt have emphasized to their players that the community’s health has to come first in this situation. But that doesn’t mean they don’t understand their players’ frustration and disappointment.

The Senators were in their second week of practice, the week of March 9-13, when suddenly there were reports of sporting events being canceled around the country.

“When (assistant coach) Nick Spadafino told me at practice that the College World Series got canceled, I knew something was bad,” said Gordon. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s in June.’ Then, throughout the day, a lot of the (Dover) kids that are playing in college started calling me.

“I just told them be safe, spend time with your families, help out around the house, practice social distancing from others — which I think is very important,” he said about his current players.

Both the Riders and Senators have solid groups of seniors. That’s why they were both optimistic about their seasons but it’s also why they’re so crushed to not be able to play.

CR has 10 seniors back from a squad that finished 10-9 and made the DIAA state tournament a year ago. Because of the way schools closed rather abruptly, Gravatt didn’t have a chance for any long conversations with the team as a whole.

The Riders were supposed to take a pre-season trip to play in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina when everything got canceled.

“My heart really aches for the kids,” said Gravatt. “We left school last Friday and we didn’t find out until we got home that they shut everything down. It wasn’t like we got to debrief, have a meeting with the kids and explain what was going on. There was nothing. We just kind of stopped.

“I tell my kids all the time, control what we can control. That’s all we can do.”

The Senators had a class of seven juniors last season on a 16-4 squad. Gordon said he was looking forward to seeing Dover’s combination of returning standouts and upperclassmen who were going to get their first chance to start.

“It’s a good mix,” he said. “We felt really, really good about this senior class this year. Hopefully they still get a chance to get out there.”

Of course the biggest question the players have for their coaches are the ones nobody can answer: When will the season start? Will the season start?

“There is some hope,” said Gordon. “The governor (John Carney) does recognize that the spring sports season is out there. He’s going to try his best to support us. If we can play, even if the schedule is modified, I think that’d be a very neat thing to see.

“I think you’ll see a bunch of communities come together. I think it’d be pretty special if we can do something like that.”

“We don’t want to build up false hopes,” said Gravatt. “I get texts pretty much every other day (from players), saying, ‘Hey, we’re hearing they’re going to cancel the season.’

“I just tell them the same thing, I say, look, that’s not been communicated to me at all by anybody. Until it comes from me, just assume we’ll get back to it (the season) whenever it’s safe to do so.”