Anticipating the spring sports season is nothing new for Josh Forbes, Jason Thompson and Matt Diesel.
This year, however, they each had the added excitement of being first-year baseball head coaches at Butler, Mars and North Catholic, respectively.
But instead of experiencing all the highs and lows that come with the game, it turned out to be something they weren't prepared for — a spring without baseball.
Forbes, Thompson and Diesel were less than a week away from watching their teams open the season when play was suspended due to the coronavirus. Three weeks later, the season was officially canceled.
“At first, we were hoping to come back after a few weeks, but the virus had other ideas,” said Forbes, 27, who was an assistant at Butler the past two years. “After a while, we assumed that the season would be completely lost. This was my first spring without baseball in 20 years.”
“This (virus) is bigger than the game,” Diesel added. “This is life, but the kids put so much time in and to have an entire season wiped out, I felt bad for them.”
The trio of coaches have dedicated much of their lives to the diamond. Baseball's absence over the last 10 weeks has left a big void for everyone involved.
“We were getting ready to take our (annual) trip to South Carolina to open the season,” said Thompson, who has been part of Mars' program for over a decade. “It was a chance to be around all the guys and play baseball. It's always been a great bonding experience, but everything ended so abruptly.”
Though the games and individual efforts were lost, all three coaches have remained involved in the game with the future in mind.
“I've been working with college coaches from across the country,” Diesel said. “We've been getting three or four podcasts done per week and plan on releasing them soon. Everything from nutrition to performance on the field to the recruiting process ... you have to remember the players. They are the most important piece.”
Thompson has also been involved with podcasts, though from the learning end.
“The time off has given me a chance to self-reflect, to find ways to adapt,” he said. “I've listened to a lot of successful college coaches talk about different aspects of their programs and what it takes to become a better leader. That, along with the fact that I was able to go through the fall and winter workouts, I feel I have a better understanding going into next year.”
Forbes has distributed workout and drill information to his players via social media.
Those passionate about high school baseball are hoping the game returns next spring. Thompson is doing his best to make sure his returning players will be prepared.
“A lot of kids don't fall in love with the weightroom-aspect of the game, but I've been staying in contact with them, setting up workouts. Over the last two months, some of them have really gotten into it. They've buying into the idea of getting stronger.
Of course, it doesn't hurt if the coach makes an example of himself.
“I try to walk two to four miles every day,” said Forbes. “I don't want to fall into a trap of eating 24-7 and getting fat. I have to keep moving.”