E.A. Sports Today

COVID-19: One coach’s plea

Ohatchee baseball coach makes rare Facebook post to share heartfelt message about players, plea for vigilance in this age of coronavirus
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
OHATCHEE – Blake Jennings isn’t a big fan of Facebook, so when he does post something there you know it’s a big deal.
The Ohatchee baseball coach took to the popular social media platform Monday night to express some heartfelt thoughts on the gut-punch the coronavirus pandemic has delivered to the world in general and his baseball team specifically.
It was tough bringing his boys together Monday to tell them the way of the world. It was even tougher to see their reaction. His post was a plea to those who would read it to remain vigilant in fighting the spread of the virus. For the player’s sake. For their sake.
“I wrote every bit of it,” he said. “Every bit of it is true. Yesterday was tough when you stand there and talk to your baseball team and hope it’s not your last game.”
As he spoke Jennings was wiping down the surfaces in his classroom just as most teachers at the county schools were doing after Calhoun County Schools superintendent Donald Turner closed them to students after Monday’s classes in the wake of Gov. Kay Ivey’s directive of closing all schools Wednesday until at least April 6 in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. 
He had been thinking about this day for his players ever since the Indians’ area doubleheader sweep of Gaston, a series so important they brought in a helicopter to help dry the field in an effort to play the games and in progress in progress as Ivey was making her announcement with state school superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey.
“I don’t post to Facebook, I’m not that person; I haven’t for a year,” Jennings said. “I told my wife I’m going to make a post, but it’s got to be the right one. I need people to open their eyes. I feel sorry for these kids.”
Here’s the post in its entirety:
I have been a baseball and football coach for 9 years. I have been the head baseball coach for 7 years. I can honestly say today has been one of the toughest days for me mentally I can remember as I talked to the baseball team this evening. No loss compares. 

It’s not about baseball. It’s about the boys that I’m around each day. If it ends this way for the seniors, I’ll be devastated. There is no finality in this situation for them. It is supposed to end by either holding up a trophy or a rollover to the shortstop!

We reevaluate on April 6th to see if this delay in school is helping (curtail) the spread of the virus. If you aren’t taking this virus seriously then I strongly advise you to.. Don’t go to that restaurant. Cook at home. Don’t go the bar to have a drink. You can do that at home. Don’t go to the movies. You can watch that at home. 

For once, just let life slow down and try to be as productive from home as possible. Do not be the person to think you can go and do as you please and that you are invincible. 

Do it for the sake of every high school senior in America. If we do our part as adults and educate the youth and find a way to cure this, then these seniors will get to play in one more game with their teammates. The seniors will get to go to their senior prom. The seniors will get to perform at one more band or choir concert. The seniors will get to graduate! Most importantly, they will have a chance to just be a kid again before they have to go into this world and get a job. 

Finally, pray about this more than you talk about it. If we do this, then maybe, just maybe we get to let our seniors in high school have a chance to be a kid one more time!

Thanks for your time, 

A concerned teacher and coach.

Jennings, an education major who holds a Masters in instructional leadership, is a fan of Twitter (he has 226 followers) because it carries a wealth of baseball information. The only reason he keeps Facebook on his phone is to update the Ohatchee baseball page. Once the season’s over he removes it.
The last time he posted to his personal page was Dec. 6, to thank all those who offered kind words for him being named the Class 2A state assistant football coach of the year. Before that, it was a Christmas picture in December 2018.
Monday night’s message was his most reflective since November 2016, the day after the Indians fell to Piedmont in the Class 3A football semifinals.
“A few years ago I told myself I’ve got to get off that,” he said. “You see how people get on social media and I don’t like it. I’ve read a lot of books since I took it off my phone a couple years ago.”
The last time he looked 100 people shared his latest message. He hopes people will “do their part” to expedite a return to normalcy.
“Maybe it did its thing,” he sighed. “I won’t post anything else.”
While he isn’t encouraged about a return on April 6, he is hopeful his team will get to play again. The AHSAA is working on a contingency plan for the playoffs in the event they do. During the hiatus, Jennings plans to do a lot of fishing, turkey hunting and planting in the garden. The rules prohibit him from interacting in a coaching capacity with his players and, sadly, he doesn’t expect to see them for a while.
“I believe we won’t do anything until May and maybe, just maybe, they find a way to let you do it,” he said. “To be honest with you, the way college baseball canceled and every sport through June canceled it makes it hard to believe you might, but maybe, just maybe, we can make it work out.”


The AHSAA Spring Sports Contingency Committee met Tuesday and discussed three main goals for the possible resumption of sports when schools reopen:

1. Provide students the opportunity to return to play as quickly and safely as possible.

2. Help schools return to normalcy by utilizing participation in sports.

3. Salvage spring sports championships, if possible, even if requires revising the playoff requirements for some spring sports.

The AHSAA’s memo provided no specifics on qualifying criteria or bracketing. The committee will meet again before April 6, if schools reopen then.

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