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Virus Fears Put Northwest Sports in Unknown territory; Fastpitch NW Monitoring Closely

By Tom Mauldin 3/16/2020

As far as Friday the 13th's go, March 13, 2020, will be remembered by some as the day ‘Sports Died in America.’

At least temporarily.

And just like the Coronavirus — aka COVID-19 — itself, just how temporary sports will be sidelined is the great unknown. No one knows much about the virus nor the timeline to a return of normalcy.

March 13 was the day when professional to collegiate to high school to club leagues around the Northwest and throughout the United States took or were given a hiatus over concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued an order to close all schools until April 24. No high school sports returning until April 25.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown shut down schools and sports from March 13-31. No high school sports returning until April 1.

Idaho Governor Brad Little is in a “wait-and-see situation” as the state reported its first two cases of the Coronavirus. For most school districts in the state, it is business as usual. But look for that to change.

From the PAC-12 to the Northwest Athletic Conference, student athletes have been impacted by stunted seasons.

The owners of Fastpitch Northwest said they are monitoring school and club activities of all levels throughout the Northwest and neighboring states.

“Things have happened very quickly these last few days,” said Mike Brooks, Fastpitch Northwest Director. “But it is far too early to be talking about any type of changes to what we have planned for summer 2020.”

Prospect Evaluation Camps throughout the Northwest are scheduled to be held in June and July, while the College Exposure Tournament will be held in August.

“Like everyone, we are keeping a close watch and learning all we can. We want to be as updated as possible … up-to-the-minute if we can. We take this very seriously as we all should,” said Brooks.

“We certainly will not put anyone in harms way,” he added. “Like everyone, we are watching as this all unfolds. But we will do all we can to give softball players from around the Northwest an opportunity to display their skills in front of college coaches.

“And we will do this with the utmost of care,” emphasized Brooks. “We will be observing all required safety protocols including hand washing stations at each evaluation camp and also observing no-contact-no handshake policies suggested by USA Softball and other national programs.”

Brooks said Fastpitch NW would assure everyone that in the unlikely event the organization must re-schedule or cancel a camp,  refunds would be made upon request.

While most of the colleges are halfway through their seasons, the high schools around the Northwest were just beginning their 2020 seasons.

“I feel so badly for our seniors,” said Ken Olson, head coach for the PeElle-Willapa varsity softball team. “We have six seniors. They are devastated and fear they might not get a senior season. We all understand, but it’s so sad.”

Former Fastpitch NW alumni Brandi Schoessler, a senior at Saint Martin’s University shared the sentiment of nearly every player who shares her softball passion.

“It’s a huge loss for us, especially the seniors,” said Schoessler, a former Walla Walla CC and Walla Walla High School standout. “I was looking forward to a good senior year and knew I would have to come to terms with this being my last year … I just thought I’d have a couple of more months with it.

As for Saturday, 19 states have shuttered schools for at least two weeks.

Nationwide, Education Week reports that pandemic-related school closures have affected more than 21-million students.

Colleges have been hit hardest. When the NCAA announced that all winter and spring championship tournaments had been cancelled, every conference from coast to coast was quick to follow with their own limited schedules.

Consider the following:

  • The PAC-12 Conference has voted to cancel spring sports.

  • The Big Sky and the Western Athletic Conference have suspended all sports until further notice.

  • The Cascade Collegiate Conference has suspended spring sports until March 30.

  • The Greater Northwest Athletic Conference has suspended spring sports until April 13.

  • The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference has suspended all contests until at least April 6.

  • The Northwest Athletic Conference that represents nearly 40 two-year colleges in the Northwest, has shuttered sports until at least April 13.

Some schools have closed and reopened. Schools are closing for many reasons related to coronavirus, including exposures, cleaning, or planning for extended closures.

There are 132,853 public and private schools in the U.S. and almost 50.8 million public school students and 5.8 million private school students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“This is going to be really hard on families,” Inslee said.

It’s going to be hard on everyone.

“The season cut short, especially so soon, really hurts,” said Schoessler. “I’ve been blessed to play this game for a long time and wouldn’t trade it for anything. In a lot of ways, I feel like I was allowed to run the race of college softball but not allowed to cross the finish line.”

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