"There were a lot of tears" from Alabama Baseball's Premature End to Season
“There were a lot of tears.”
The words from Alabama baseball coach of Brad Bohannon sadly sounded through the earpiece of the phone as the third-year coach detailed the reactions of his players upon hearing the news on March 12 that the rest of the season had been cancelled.
Bohannon is currently self-quarantining at his home like many others in the Tuscaloosa area during the current pandemic. Along with all of the other coaches, staff and players, he is not allowed to do work on university property and is having to resort to working from home.
Just because he’s had some time to contemplate his team and its season’s early end doesn't mean that it's gotten any easier emotionally.
“I think if you’re not a college athlete it’s hard to understand the energy and passion and work and all that that we put into it,” Bohannon said. “I think in our particular situation we had some older kids that had been a part of two or three really tough seasons.
"The thing about baseball is we play all the time and when it’s going well there’s nothing better and when it’s not going well there’s nothing worse. You just get beat all the time every day.”
This year was different, though. A 16-1 start — the best for the Crimson Tide since 2010 — had fans and friends alike feeling positive about the direction of the program.
After going 30-26 last season and missing the third straight SEC tournament, Bohannon emphasized that his team was made up of ingredients that formed a recipe for success after several years of disappointment.
“We had a team this year where we had a mix of some older kids that were just absolutely sick of losing and just really really determined to get over the hump and we also had some young new people that thought they were 10-feet tall and bulletproof and just thought that we were supposed to win because they were on the team and it was a really nice mix," he said.
“This group of kids liked each other and enjoyed being around each other as much as any group I’ve ever been a part of. I mean they genuinely like each other. There were no cliques on the team. I mean you can walk in the dining hall at any point in time and see any mix of kids. Age, whatever background, so I think that probably added to the emotion of it coming to an end.”
When Bohannon first heard news on March 11th that the NBA was cancelling its games, the first feelings of concern began to course through him.
This was serious.
What soon followed was the announcement the subsequent day that the Crimson Tide’s weekend series against Missouri had been cancelled.
Still determined to maintain his team, Bohannon had his players work out as scheduled on that fateful day and had scheduled scrimmages on both Friday and Saturday to keep the players sharp.
“Everyone was just hopeful that it was going to be [a] short-term interruption of the season,” Bohannon said. “Even at that point in time that was pretty upsetting to our group. We had done such a good job in the preseason and our kids were just so hyped for SEC play to start because you know that’s why you come to Alabama is to play in the league.”
It was in the middle of that Thursday workout that Bohannon received the news of the cancellation of the postseason.
“We were out on the field in the middle of a workout when we found out that the NCAA had cancelled the postseason so you know once that happened I think it kind of resonated with everyone like ‘Oh my gosh our season is in real jeopardy’ and that was a really emotional time,” Bohannon said. “I guess I’m thankful that we were together when that came out. I called the team up and shared that with them and it was really emotional for all of us. Coaches, players, staff.”
Later that same day the NCAA announced the cancellation of the entire season.
Bohannon now struggles with being a confident, steadfast leader in an uncertain world. With the canceling of the season players, particularly seniors, understandably began approaching him with questions regarding the futures of themselves and program.
While the job of head coach is typically associated with being the person with all the answers, Bohannon admits that in this current unpredictable state that college baseball and sports in general are in he must strive to provide the best support he can despite not knowing what might come next for the sport.
“You know really my message at that point in time and even now is just ‘hey I don’t know, we’ll work through it together as we learn more,’” Bohannon said. “There still isn’t a lot of concrete information out there as far as what exactly is the eligibility relief, scholarship relief, roster limits.
"We also have the Major League Baseball draft that has a huge impact on our roster every year. It’s really hard as a coach. You feel like you’re supposed to have all the answers and right now I just keep saying a lot of ‘hey I don’t know and we’ll figure it out together as we move forward.’”
With growing uncertainty as each day passes, it is understandable why players are concerned. The NCAA recently announced that it is pursuing an option to give athletes in all spring sports an additional year of eligibility, but with that comes even more questions.
“For me I gotta wait and see what the NCAA says and what Major League Baseball says,” Bohannon said. “I can’t do anything in regards to a fall roster until I know if the seniors truly have the opportunity to come back what’s the scholarship situation gonna be.
"You start adding more players to the puzzle you know are we still going to have the same roster and scholarship limits? Is there gonna be a Major League Baseball draft and if so how many rounds is it gonna be and are the spending pools gonna be the same?”
With every question answered, more questions seem to appear. While his job has gotten much more unpredictable and he experiences new challenges on a daily basis, Bohannon appears to be handling the difficulties at hand in stride.
With the season over and in the books and now being forced to work from home, Bohannon hasn’t let the outside distractions and obstacles keep him from doing his job as head coach.
“If we were in the season right now I would be in the office,” Bohannon said. “I would be watching video of our next opponent or more focused on game activities. I’ve probably been able to spend more time on recruiting even though we’re not allowed to go out and watch kids play right now and we’re not allowed to have kids on campus. Spent some more time doing things that I wouldn’t have time for.”
Bohannon is also using this time to grow not just professionally but personally as well.
“I’ve got to spend a lot more time with my wife than I normally do in March and my yard looks better than it probably did this time last year,” Bohannon said.