At the start of the season, the Binghamton baseball team had reasons for optimism. The team had been picked first in the America East (AE) preseason coaches’ poll, and had gotten the season off to a rough start against tough competition, but found their stride after playing a few series, taking a four-game win streak into their final series before AE play.
Then, in a blink of an eye, it all came apart as the AE announced that all spring sports were canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Though the announcement was disappointing for everyone on the baseball team, it was most disappointing for seniors like infielder Alex Baratta, who saw their final chance at winning an AE title get snatched away. With similar circumstances for senior student-athletes across America, the NCAA decided last week to award an extra year of eligibility to all participants in spring sports.
“For me personally, I feel like we had a special season taken away from us,” Baratta said. “I’m glad the NCAA realized, and all the conferences realized, that seniors should have another shot. Whether or not every senior will take that extra year, I’m not sure, [but] I think that they did make the right decision.”
The NCAA’s move is unprecedented, and it is unclear how many athletes will take the additional year of eligibility the NCAA is offering. The situation is unique for everyone, especially seniors with many different factors to consider, such as post-graduation opportunities. Baratta has yet to make his decision.
“For me, it would be whether or not I’d want to keep going on with school and receiving a master’s [degree],” Baratta said. “Do I want to keep going to school for another year, two years, possibly three years? That’s pretty much the biggest question mark.”
Baratta had a job opportunity lined up in his hometown, but also expressed a desire to get into coaching baseball in the future, and even has a shot at getting consideration from professional baseball teams.
Last season, Baratta was second on the team with a .356 batting average and was nominated for AE Player of the Year. He garnered 58 hits, 13 extra base hits and three home runs in his 43 starts. This season, Baratta started every game for BU, and got off to an even better start on the stats sheet before the season was axed. In the 12 games the Bearcats played this year, Baratta had 20 hits, 11 RBIs and a .408 batting average.
“Hopefully I put myself in a position to possibly get some major league looks, or professional looks,” Baratta said. “That’s always been a dream of mine, and I think that, at least in my time here, I put myself in a good position for it, but I know that it’s very slim pickings when it comes to that. If that didn’t work out, I was planning on getting into coaching.”
According to Baratta, everyone on the baseball team found the news of the season’s cancellation difficult, but they have since adapted to the situation and are adjusting to their lives at home. Keeping in shape is difficult in the current stay-at-home environment, but players are finding time to work out when they can. According to Baratta, Bryan McGovern, head strength and conditioning coach at BU, sent out a packet with some guidance on how to keep up with fitness without access to a gym.
“I think everyone’s been taking it pretty well, or as well as they can,” Baratta said. “Most of us are back home now, transitioning into the online classes and trying to find time to work out or hit, but that’s pretty tough when you’re stuck at home. We’re all making the best of it, and every week we all FaceTime together, and we kind of see how things are going and how we’re adjusting to our home lives. Overall, I think we’ve taken it pretty well.”
Though it’s still up in the air as to whether Baratta’s baseball career at BU is over or not, if he does decide to move on, he will look back on last season’s AE playoff run as the fondest moment of his Bearcat career.
“That team was awesome,” Baratta said. “The camaraderie, the leadership … That team was pretty special. Every single day we came to the ballpark and we all had smiles on our faces. We were playing the game we love.”