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COVID-19 sidelines new era for Lakeland baseball

April 19, 2020 by Brett LaBore

The sports section of the Tuesday, April 14 edition of The Lakeland Times covered what the Lakeland spring sports’ coaches are doing with the season currently suspended. One team in particular has an interesting situation and that is the baseball team.

The Lakeland baseball team finished 5-15 overall last season, 4-8 in conference. Now they have a new coach. 

Randy Quade takes over for Mike Wilhelm this season. What makes this such a unique situation is the fact that he is a new coach and the season hadn’t really started when COVID-19 hit. 

“Definitely unusual, really thankful to have time for open gyms on Sundays, open gyms since January,” Quade said. “(I had) a few months to get to know some of the boys.”

Pitcher and instructions week was set for March 15-21 and the earliest practice could have been March 23.

“We didn’t even get that,” Quade said. “We had one team informational meeting the week or so before spring break. It’s very unique for sure.”

With the season delayed, Quade will have to wait even longer before making his debut as head coach.

“For me personally, I don’t remember when I got the position,” he said. “Most of the winter and the fall (I’ve thought about) what it looks like to be a head coach.”

In the meantime, the baseball team has the opportunity to catch and practice their hitting at their homes. At the same time, it can be tricky to work on things by one’s self.

“If they had access to a tee, great thing to hit tee, play catch with sibling or dad and of course they can do physical conditioning, running etc. to keep their full bodies in shape,” Quade said. “I’m hoping they’re playing catch when they can. It’s hard to do baseball-related activities. Baseball is a difficult game to work on on your own.”

There have been talks of what a season would look like, should it resume. There would be a scramble of games in a short period of time.

“What’s best (is we get) as many games as we could or do we shoot for eight games and build up as much of that experience as we can,” Quade said. “(I’d be) happy if our season was eight games and look back as it wasn’t ideal, at least they have something.”

Bringing sports back to the community would be something everyone could look forward to and is something Quade hopes will happen.

“Baseball will hopefully still happen in the summer, but even that I hope we have that for the community,” he said. “There’s softball games going on and all those things … (are) great for our community and a sense of normalcy.”

Most of all, Quade feels for the athletes who haven’t gotten a chance to play the sport they love this spring.

“I feel bad for the seniors. If they don’t have anything, it’s a tough way to end their high school season,” he said. “I feel bad for their season, a year of development, a freshman just coming in and looking forward to high school baseball. I hope for them they can do something.”

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]

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