The baseball diamond at Monmouth Academy is empty Monday. Pitchers and catchers for high school baseball and softball were supposed to report Monday before the Coronavirus pandemic postponed the season. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

This is Kyle Bishop’s first season as a varsity head baseball coach. And Monday would have been the new Hall-Dale skipper’s first taste of leading a team.

It was the day originally designated for pitchers and catchers to report. But the gym was empty, the players were home, and there was nothing for Bishop — or any coach in the state — to do.

“We spent a few months getting ready for it, and I guess it’s more disappointing than anything else,” he said. “You have a date set and you’re all fired up and ready to go, and this happens.”

The Maine Principals’ Association decided on March 13 to delay the start of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the repercussions of that decision weren’t felt until Monday, which was supposed to be the start of the baseball and softball seasons as pitchers and catchers were to have their first training sessions.

For many coaches, the arrival of that day made the delay hit home.

“(Cony baseball coach) Don Plourde and I have been texting back and forth a little bit, and it was kind of like a half-joke, half-sad way of texting,” Maranacook baseball coach Eric Brown said. “It definitely brings it into light more. I had it on my calendar, ‘Baseball starts today,’ and there’s a big line through it.”

He wasn’t alone. At Skowhegan, baseball coach Mike LeBlanc lamented the postponement of the start of practice.

“I’m going out of my mind,” he said. “But we have to take care of our health before we have fun on the diamond.”

In Saco, Thornton Academy baseball coach Jason Larivierre said he woke up Monday morning and remembered it was supposed to be the first day of tryouts.

“It just doesn’t feel right,” Larivierre said. “This is usually the busiest time of the year for me. I’m supposed to be working with my high school guys and seeing what all of the hard work they’ve done all winter has done for them. It’s fun to see that, knowing they’re ready. That’s what I’m missing now.”

It hasn’t been easier for players, who also were looking forward to the start of the season.

“My catcher Brooke (Martin) and I have been sort of preparing in the last couple of weeks, and amping up pitching a couple more times every week to get ready for this,” Messalonskee senior pitcher Danielle Hall said. “We’re still excited to keep pitching, we’re going to keep going during this time, but it would have been exciting to start and get together with everybody today.”

Monmouth baseball coach Eric Palleschi said Monday had the potential to be a tough day for his players.

“I think it really hits home,” he said. “I think it might hit them a little harder (Monday). The reality might sink in a bit more. I think all of our kids are worried whether there will even be a season. They’ve been worried since Day 1, but I think it’s hitting home more now.”

Madison softball coach Chris LeBlanc echoed those thoughts, saying he knew his players were looking forward to the first day of their quest to defend back-to-back Class C titles.

“I think they looked forward to it,” he said. “I have four seniors coming back, and they were all very anxious. They have an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in Madison since the ’90s dynasty, when they won four in a row.”

The hands-off period enforced by the MPA prevented those coaches from having another avenue to work with their players.

“As coaches, we have to respect the rules in front of us,” Palleschi said. “We have to hope that our kids do what they can do to be ready.”

Many players are. Hall, for instance, said she continues to work on her pitching with Martin outside and get swings in at LaCasse Bats and Batting Cage, an indoor facility in Skowhegan.

“We all want to get together and everybody’s been talking about the season,” Hall said. “It’s a little harder to try to do things on your own, but you have to.”

Winslow senior Colby Pomeroy said he started throwing with a few teammates at Colby College after the basketball season ended. He said he hopes in the coming weeks he and a small group of teammates are able to get together and throw, in the hopes the season is not lost altogether.

“We were hoping to get into the batting cage at Colby, but they shut down the camps,” Pomeroy said. “…We’re all getting bored. We hope the season’s not canceled.”

Some players have to get creative. Bonny Eagle junior second baseman Jacob Humphrey, a three-sport athlete and returning all-SMAA infielder, said he’s trying to stay sharp for baseball. But training options are limited.

“I’m stuck at the house playing catch with my little (9-year-old) brother or hitting off a tee,” he said. “Maybe getting Wiffleball in, but you can’t really do too much now.”

The hope is that there will eventually be a chance for the work to pay off.

“(The) 1998 (season) was the last year I didn’t have high school baseball,” Yarmouth coach Marc Halstead said. “I talked to (Greely coach) Derek Soule a little bit, and we just talked about how fun it is to coach these kids. They’re a big part of our lives. I’m just missing it so much.”

Staff writers Travis Lazarczyk and Bill Stewart, and Steve Craig of the Portland Press Herald contributed to this report.

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