Refocusing from short-term visions to long-term ones is what kept the University of Alabama baseball team focused for its March 12 practice. That is, until both were ripped out from under them.
On that day, UA coach Brad Bohannon knew the upcoming series against Missouri, and even the few weeks that followed, were unlikely to be played, but he was still optimistic the season would resume shortly thereafter. That being the case, he led his team to the practice field, with the idea of getting a few days of practice before releasing the players for a spring break weekend.
During that practice, a student manager brought his phone to Bohannon. On it, the announcement from the NCAA that the College World Series, along with all other winter and spring championships, were canceled. Bohannon brought the team into the dugout to break the news, ending practice early. Not long after, he was telling players to pack up their dorms and go home.
The final days of the 2020 season, cut short at just 17 games, were a blur for Bohannon. Bohannon spoke about it and the uncertain future with Tidesports.com.
“There were a lot of teary eyes, coaches and players included,” Bohannon said. “I was intentionally somewhat understated in the preseason about out club publicly, because I didn’t want to put unnecessary pressure on a team that had so many new pieces and young players in key roles, but there wasn’t an ounce of doubt by anyone in that room, coaches and players included, that not only expected to be in a Regional but be dangerous in a Regional. To not officially get that closure, it was tough. It’s really tough.”
UA ended its season 16-1, chomping at the bit to prove something in the SEC.
“We’re going to take it to Missouri this weekend, we’re going to give them all we got,” senior utility man Brett Auerbach said on March 10, two days before the baseball postseason was canceled.
It is possible Auerbach and the team’s other eight seniors can attempt to catch that magic again in 2021. The NCAA is working on legislation that would grant spring athletes an additional year of eligibility; whether that would apply exclusively to seniors or to all classifications remains uncertain, along with all other aspects of the idea.
Bohannon has yet to make serious plans for such an event because there are so many complicating factors for it. College baseball has an 11.7-scholarship limit and a 35-man roster limit, and both factors would have to be addressed for this legislation to work.
“It’s hard for us to come up with any kind of plans before we have answers from a Major League Baseball draft standpoint as as well scholarship roster limitations changing or staying the same,” Bohannon said. “For every scenario you create or every solution you propose, it takes you down 17 different rabbit holes.
“I’m not sure adding more pieces to the puzzle is the answer unless the puzzle is bigger. I think it’s going to be a real challenge of what’s the best thing to do for kids that only got a chance to play 17 games this year. We’re also just a small piece of an athletic department. There’s a lot of variables that come into play.”
Bohannon has yet to have conversations with his seniors regarding their interest in returning for 2021, if given that opportunity. There is a lot left to figure out, he says, and he doesn’t see those conversations as productive without the proper parameters for them. Some of them, anticipating 2020 being their final baseball season, may have already made plans for life after baseball that start this summer, making it impossible for them to come back for another season. There’s also the financial realties of partial scholarships and/or walk-ons, and many can’t afford to take on the additional year of college expenses. Those conversations will come in time.
For now, Bohannon and the rest of the Crimson Tide come to terms with what’s lost. What could have been the program’s turning point must wait another 11 months.