Baseball and softball fields were without competition for nearly three months when things shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, players were continuing to put in the work to prepare for the return and several local athletes have gotten their chance to get back on the field with their summer travel ball teams.
Tallassee softball outfielder Chloe Baynes reunited with her travel team, the EC Bullets. Her school season was cut short even more when an arm injury in the first game took her out of the lineup until the coronavirus shut down the remaining games, so Baynes was excited to get back on the field.
“It’s been really nice being back and playing,” Baynes said. “I know everyone got cut short but mine was cut even shorter because of the injury. It just feels really good. I love every single one of my travel ball teammates. They are my family.”
Although Baynes is joined by several of her Tallassee teammates, there are plenty of players from farther away Baynes does not get to see as often. She said there was some concern travel ball teams may not get to reunite this year so they are making sure to take advantage of every tournament they get together.
“I want to go to all of the tournaments even if it is different,” Baynes said. “I love to play and I haven’t played in such a long time.”
Having time together with teammates has made the summer better but the players are still getting the benefit of some extra exposure to college recruiters.
“We have still been getting a good bit of coaches watching so I think it’s still the amount of exposure,” Baynes said. “We have this app that helps us livestream all of our games and coaches watch it on there.”
There are different hurdles with the new way to watch as cameras can only see so much. Wetumpka’s Ashlynn Campbell plays with the Birmingham Thunderbolts and she still has concerns with some her biggest skills not being showcased.
“Whenever we stream games, it’s hard to see what’s going on,” Campbell said. “Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. You can see if you’re hitting but if I made a good play on defense, you might miss it.”
Those differences could make a difference in some of the players’ chances at reaching the next level but that’s not the only noticeable change at this summer’s tournaments.
“At the end of games, we’re not allowed to shake hands,” Campbell said. “If you hit a foul ball out, you have to use your own ball. A lot of the parents aren’t there. It’s just different.”
Despite all of the changes, Campbell is still excited to be back out on the field. She admitted there have been challenges along the way but that has not derailed any of the excitement of getting back to softball.
“It’s been really good,” Campbell said. “It’s been difficult though too since we haven’t touched the field in so long. We’ve had to practice a lot but we haven’t been able to do that with a lot of people. It’s been hard but we are just trying to focus on the game.”