(Photo of Dan McDonnell: Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When the Louisville baseball program faces off against Bellarmine on Friday, Feb. 19 to open up the 2021 season, it will have been 345 days since they last played a competitive collegiate baseball game. The Cardinals were last seen downing Chicago State all the way back on Mar. 11, 2020, just one day before the remainder of their season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
While Louisville's hopes at reaching the College World Series that season were dashed, adversity later became opportunity for the Cardinals. When the 2020-21 athletic calendar began across the collegiate landscape, head coach Dan McDonnell and the rest of his staff immediately began taking notes.
"We're just constantly - ears and eyes are open, 'hey, what do we need to do?'," McDonnell said Thursday. "It's amazing, from how to feed the kids - I mean the check in with one thing. Check in, get to the field, the showers - when do guys showers, and we learned all that in the fall."
But the Cardinals are far from done absorbing information when it comes to combating the virus. Even with the season just one week away, McDonnell is still figuring out the nuances of their new atmosphere, such as where the team sits for pregame meals, how to conduct scouting reports, arranging buses for road trips, and how rooms are assigned at hotels when traveling.
"It's so much," McDonnell said. "We should have the advantage, not that we'll be perfect, but we definitely learned from the fall and winter sports."
The longtime head coach of the Cards admits that there will more than likely be some bumps in the road, but he is optimistic that his squad will be able to reach this season's finish line. He has even drawn inspiration from Jeff Walz and the Louisville women's basketball program, using them as an example that they can overcome this new obstacle.
"I've used our women's hoops team a lot with this group, because they're doing it right now," McDonnell said. "Not that the men aren't doing it either, but obviously the women - just getting to that No. 1 ranking, and getting game times moved, and having a game start with players not on the bench. I've been so impressed with how well they've handled it."
Of course, all that prolonged note taking would be for naught if the players in his program were not willing to apply what they've learned in order to ensure that there will be a season. Fortunately, he thinks his team will be ready for the challenge.
"The quote on the practice schedule today is "we eat obstacles for breakfast". That's the mindset," he said. "You got to be able to handle the curveballs of life, as I always say, and I'd be shocked if this group is not ready to handle that."
Louisville will open the season ranked as high as the No. 2 team in the country when they begin their three-game series with Bellarmine at Jim Patterson Stadium, and feature six different players named as preseason All-Americans.
You can follow Louisville Report for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on Twitter:
Facebook - @LouisvilleOnSI