Zach Pressnell and the Pickerington North baseball team should have spent last week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, playing three scrimmages at The Ripken Experience before their regular-season opener March 28 against Allentown (Pennsylvania).
That was the original plan, before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced the closing of schools, the eventual cancellation of the boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey and wrestling state tournaments and postponed the start of the spring sports season.
Instead, as Pressnell and his teammates wait for word on whether they will play, he said last week that his typical day is "really weird."
"We follow a lot of Driveline Baseball protocols. This involves throwing weighted baseballs, usually into a brick wall. I don't have access to a wall so I've gotten creative and have started throwing these baseballs into a mattress that is stood up against my garage," said Pressnell, a senior third baseman and pitcher and an Urbana recruit. "I use makeshift weights and small dumbbells to try to stay in shape the best way possible. Coach (Tim Thomas) has also provided us with body weight things that we could do, too.
"This whole situation is so unreal. I never thought I would be throwing baseballs into a mattress against my garage."
An initial statewide three-week closing of schools by Gov. Mike DeWine ends Friday, April 3. The OHSAA instituted a no-contact period during that time, although teammates can communicate and coaches are allowed to send their players suggested workouts. The earliest spring sports could begin under the initial ruling is April 11, following a five-day acclimation period.
Update: DeWine announced March 30 that schools will remain closed through May 1.
Pickerington Central softball catcher Zoie Smith, a Bucknell recruit and first-team all-state selection last year, spends time each day in her basement hitting, throwing and performing hand-eye coordination drills. She and several teammates record and share their workouts both with each other and on social media, using the hashtag LetUsPlay.
"(The hashtag is) to show our dedication to not only the sport but to each other and using it to hold ourselves accountable," Smith said. "I'm just continuing what I do almost every night. I hit off the tee in my basement every night for about 45 minutes to an hour, I do hand-eye coordination drills and throw a ball off our wall to work on framing, blocking and transitions."
Teammate Colleen Bare, a sophomore shortstop, third baseman and outfielder, also records most of her sessions and considers herself lucky to work daily with her brother, Seth, an eighth-grade baseball player, and father, McLean Correll.
"They're definitely my top motivators. They push me and keep me focused. I know we will get past this. We (teammates) text just about every day," Bare said. "I don't really want to think about not having a season. I'll still have a few years and summer ball, but I'll miss being with my teammates."
Central boys track and field standout Garner Wallace, who placed fourth in the 1,600 meters at last year's state meet and helped the Tigers to the Division I state championship, runs approximately seven miles every morning before doing homework. Last week, that work time was replaced by rare leisure activities because of spring break.
"I feel like I'm pushing myself harder (by working alone)," said Wallace, a junior who had 12 Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers and one basketball offer as of last week. "I'll get another year so it's not as bad for me, but it's still hard running on my own and being without my coaches and teammates. Track is an individual sport anyway, (but) it's been difficult."
North junior Mayson Bates, who did not compete in either basketball or volleyball this year in order to focus on track and field, made a makeshift hurdle by placing a rake across two traffic cones. She used that until obtaining an actual hurdle from Panthers coach Dave Spring on March 25.
"Mom and I had to improvise," said Bates, whose mother, Damicka, was Division II state runner-up in the 100 hurdles in 1996 as a senior at Hartley and helped the Hawks' 800 relay to a state championship two years earlier. "That was a good stand-in considering the circumstances. This kind of situation definitely makes you have to figure out what works. ...
"I've really been training since August for outdoor season. Nobody knows what's going on yet."
Not having spring sports goes beyond the field for Central girls lacrosse player Brenna Todd, a sophomore attacker.
Her brother, Garyck, is the Tigers boys team's coach and their parents, Mike and Luann, are heavily involved with both teams.
"It's different not going to my brother's games or playing in my own. I'm also in cross country, but we're a lacrosse family," Brenna Todd said. "That's the sport that makes us go."
Like other athletes, Bates tried not to think about a spring without formal competition.
"If you tell yourself there won't be a season, there's a chance you'll sit around and slack off while others are still acting and working like we will have a season," she said. "You definitely don't want to sit around and mope about it."