As he's done for more than three decades, Tim Saunders took time whenever he wasn't working on his yard or talking with students this spring to work on his pride and joy: Deck Webb Field.

In 1998, the home of the Dublin Coffman baseball team was named national high school field of the year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

Saunders' latest beautification efforts included redoing home plate, working on the pitcher's mound and adding green circles above the bleachers to honor each of the program's all-state honorees.

The projects weren't exactly what Saunders had planned to be doing at this point in time. He figured some of them would get done later, but little has gone the way he or anyone else expected since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States three months ago.

Saunders, who was inducted into the National High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012, decided over the winter that this would be his final season leading the Shamrocks.

He headed into the season with a chance at reaching 600 victories, having a career record of 589-393 that included 10 league titles and the Division I state championship in 2001.

But instead of celebrating the end of a 33-year coaching career, Saunders was resigned to providing fatherly advice to a five-member senior class and an overall young roster that didn't get to gain experience as a result of the OHSAA initially postponing and ultimately canceling the spring sports season because of the coronavirus.

"If I was a football or basketball coach, I'd probably be super upset because they're not used to losing anything and they're (feeling like they're) getting behind, but the other guys are getting behind, too," Saunders said. "It's kind of like a rainout. If you're in baseball long enough, you can get rained out for three or four days in a row and lose three or four games."

As Ohio and the rest of America figure out how to move forward during the pandemic, it can't be underscored enough how much young athletes, especially those at the high school level, have endured the past three months.

The last prep sporting event in central Ohio was held March 11 when the Hilliard Bradley boys basketball team beat Walnut Ridge in a Division I regional semifinal at Ohio Dominican.

So much has changed since that time, with students spending the final two-plus months of the 2019-20 school year doing distance learning and athletes not being cleared to compete.

However, while the shutdown of the high school sports world kept Saunders from celebrating his last hurrah with the Shamrocks, it wasn't enough to make him second-guess his decision to step away from coaching.

He expects to be back on a baseball field someday, possibly coaching at the college level, because being at the ballfield is "still fun."

The biggest struggles for Saunders -- and many other people -- are the uncertainties of the situation, along with the need to plan and have structure.

A pair of former Coffman players, Joey Murray and Austin Cousino, have dropped by the ballfield in recent days.

Murray is one of the top pitching prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays' organization, while Cousino got a job this past offseason as a scout with the Detroit Tigers.

Their lives and dreams, like those of the players Saunders was set to coach this spring, have been put on hold.

While pushing the pause button isn't easy for anyone, Saunders' illustration about how life is mimicking some of baseball's longtime frustrations seems fitting.

"I just say, 'Hang in there, guys,' " Saunders said. "We can't control it. It's like a guy throwing a curveball. You adjust on the next pitch. You look silly on this one, but I said that basically we're just in a rain delay here trying to figure things out."

That's the kind of encouragement everyone needs right now.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek