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Sudden Season Shutdown Stuns Ivy League Players, Coaches

As Brown head baseball coach Grant Achilles gathered his team in the clubhouse for the toughest meeting of his coaching career, he quickly realized that no one on his team had seen the press release announcing that the Ivy League was shutting down its spring sports seasons effective immediately.

“The way I knew they hadn’t read the press release was they were laughing,” Achilles said.

That laughter soon stopped when the team realized Achilles was crying. He teared up before he could begin to tell them their season was over.

“It’s heartbreaking. Being in the locker room and telling a group of kids that have pushed and fought and bled and sweat to get to this point to get to their senior year, or their freshman year for that matter. To have the season taken away. We’re a week and a half out from Ivy League play. These decisions are not taken lightly I’m sure. That doesn’t make it any easier to tell these kids the very thing that draws them to one another. The thing they have been doing since they could walk. Being in the locker room telling all 30 whether seniors or freshmen; it’s an impossible situation to have anything but tears.

“We know these decisions are being made at the highest levels, when those decisions are made you have to deal with it and respond. Right now I’m struggling to find a response.”

Achilles and the team’s Wednesday began as normal. Achilles had been part of a departmental meeting the day before that addressed the novel coronavirus concerns, but as the day began, it was still a routine day. And then an email came.

“You get an email for an urgent meeting,” Achilles said. “There’s a pit in your stomach because you know, urgent meetings don’t come for good news.”

By the time he heard the news, the Brown players were on the field getting loose for practice. He had to call them off the field to tell them their season was over. The shock was obvious.

“We always have the conversation coaching college kids–everyone’s baseball career ends at some point. What are you doing to prepare for it? With an injury, you can say, I was giving everything I could. When a season ends on something outside of your control, devastating is the easiest word. It’s heartbreaking for your kids.

The Ivy League is expected to appeal for an extra year of eligibility for all affected players. But it’s not as easy as just adding a year of eligibility. Brown had nine seniors on this year’s team.

“These seniors, they were the closest group of freshmen we ever had on campus and they have only gotten closer. They have led by example. We were very excited to see this team in the Ivy League season. You hope that the Ivy League grants a waiver to come back if they want to for a fifth year here. I know there will be ongoing conversations. But you have a group of kids, the majority are on substantial financial aid. They can’t just write a check and forget about it. There have been serious sacrifices to get them here and keep them here. I hope there are serious considerations moving forward. It shouldn’t end like this.”

Once one of the toughest meetings of Achilles’ coaching career ended, the players picked back up their gloves and bats. Their season may have been over, but they didn’t want to leave the park. As Achilles talked, the players resumed practice for a season that has already ended.

“I’m sitting in the left field corner watching them throw and hit and take ground balls,” Achilles said. “They are trying to return to normalcy. Our Sunday starter is playing catch with the catcher. Our seniors are taking BP right now.”


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