May 23, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Two months after coronavirus crisis began, here’s how our lives have been changed forever

A big crowd turned out on Friday, March 6 for a PCL baseball game at Ryan Lemmon Stadium. (File photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

It was Friday night, March 6 and it seemed like this was just another high school baseball game.

Fans from Irvine and Woodbridge gathered at Ryan Lemmon Stadium for the Pacific Coast League opener.

It was a pretty exciting game with Woodbridge winning 2-0 and there was the normal good-natured bantering between fans of the two schools in the stands.

Sadly for players, coaches and fans, that was one of the last games in Orange County. Little did anyone who attended the game that night realize what was to follow ….. and about two months later our lives have been changed forever.

A week after that PCL baseball game, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic began to hit. Thousands of lives would later be lost, thousands would be hospitalized, many businesses would be shutdown and everyone searched for answers on how to cope with this tragedy and keep their families safe.

Before, when tragedy struck, we could always count on sports to get us through the rough times and provide some relief.

Not this time.

For safety concerns, high school games were cancelled and seniors throughout the county saw a heartbreaking and early end to their seasons. All-star games meant to honor these seniors were also cancelled and long-running baseball and softball tournaments were also scrapped. The first high school all-star basketball games for high school seniors in Santa Ana was also cancelled.

High school seniors throughout Orange County had their senior year activities postponed or cancelled. School officials still appear to be addressing what will happen with graduation.

College athletics were also hit hard. The Big West men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the NCAA Tournaments were cancelled. In addition, all professional sports were put on hold.

With it, there were school closures and lots of uncertainty and fear in dealing with something we have never experienced. Our lives changed dramatically. We were advised to stay home except for essential services, we weren’t allowed to be in groups and when we did go to the market or conduct business outside, we were advised to wear masks or face coverings. We couldn’t dine at restaurants and couldn’t get haircuts.

This also had a direct impact on our families. For the most part, it meant we couldn’t visit our sisters, brothers, cousins, nephews and nieces, grandparents and aunts and uncles in person. In some cases, children couldn’t visit their parents. Those visits would have to be on Zoom. Birthday parties were pretty much a thing of the past. Instead well intentioned people organized drive-by birthday parties. Coaches made visits to high school seniors and placed signs in their front yards.

We couldn’t visit our closest friends either. If we did see them, we couldn’t give them a handshake. If we lived in a complex, we couldn’t use the recreational amenities.

Young athletes couldn’t be in summer swim leagues, youth baseball players saw their seasons scrapped. The adults couldn’t play recreational softball. In our case, we miss playing with the Misprnts, a coed softball league in the City of Irvine. Yes, the team name is mis-spelled on purpose. Play was suspended a few weeks into the season and there is no indication when the league will resume.

Personally, this reporter misses in person visits to family members the most. Secondly, we miss being out covering games for the first time in more than 30 years … doing interviews with coaches and players and visiting with fans. Normally, this would be the first week of the CIF baseball and softball playoffs. We have enjoyed our visits by phone and Email with a number of coaches and players who continue to provide us with wonderful stories.

We’re hoping that when it is safe, we can be back doing what we love and players, coaches and fans can do the same. When that will be is certainly the big question. The start of the football season is, of course, a main concern. Like you, we wonder what sports will look like when it resumes and we have no doubt that it will, again providing us with much-needed relief. Among the questions: will fans be crowded into high school stadiums on Friday nights again, like the turnout for that baseball game in Irvine? What will the stands look like for high school football games? Will there be fans? When will the season start?

We also wonder when students will go back to school and how will Orange County community colleges deal with this crisis, and how will that affect athletics.

There are also lots of important factors that are bigger than sports. Most importantly, we want to thank all the brave nurses and doctors and first responders who are risking their own lives to help others. Through it all, we have to stay healthy, help our friends and family and we have to make an adequate living in a time when jobs are shrinking.

We also have to figure out ways to keep our spirits up. One of them is by talking and sharing experiences. We will be reaching out to a number of coaches and athletes in the coming weeks asking them how the coronavirus pandemic has changed their lives. Many coaches and athletes have inspired us during this time. We would love to share more stories with our readers.

And remember, we’re doing more than sports coverage too; this is a story that affects us all in one way or another.

Please stay safe and thank you for reading OC Sports Zone!

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com