This was originally written for StudentUnionSports.com on March 12, 2020.
When difficult things have happened that I’ve struggled to comprehend, I’ve written about them. I wrote about both the passing of Commissioner Mike Slive, my dear friend, and of Kobe Bryant. Today, I write about me. Today, I write about my team.
As I’ve mentioned over the years, I’m one of the radio guys for Alabama Softball on the Crimson Tide Sports Network. I’m also a senior in college, and the plan was for this to be my final season. Last year, we got rings. This year, we got an announcement that our season is quite possibly over.
As I type, I’m at a loss for words. Right now, there are only tears. My heart is broken. I think about our seniors for Alabama Softball, like my friend Sarah Cornell, one of the brightest spirits I’ve ever known whose senior day was coming up on Saturday. I think about Bailey Hemphill, who broke the Alabama single-season RBI record last year and was ready to do it again this season. I think about Krystal Goodman, who came to Alabama from Chipola College to finish out her career. I think about Elissa Brown, who has been out since opening weekend with a hand injury but was poised to return in a few weeks. I think about my new friend Alexis Mack, the graduate student with speed for days, who came to Alabama from Oregon to finish her playing career. I think about Taylor Clark, who left Virginia Tech to play for the Crimson Tide and win a WCWS title. I think about Claire Jenkins, who was out for this season and won’t have a chance to celebrate with her team the rest of 2020. These are the seniors who have trained for years to play major college softball, and that chance is probably gone in 2020. They don’t deserve this.
Hopefully the NCAA does the right thing. Hopefully, these players are granted another year of eligibility. These players, like so many across the country, can’t see their careers end like this.
Maybe this can be reversed. An article came out a few days ago that said some folks at the University of Tennessee may be close to a cure. Maybe, if that cure is found, we can resume the season. Perhaps there’s a miracle out there. But, if I’m being honest, my hope for this result is dampened.
It should also be noted that the SEC has just suspended sports until March 30th. Ross Dellenger from Sports Illustrated put out an important tweet about this today, and it does give us a chance to play the regular season beyond the current date set by the conference. My hope is that, once this is sorted out and the situation becomes less critical, we can continue the season and play the SEC Softball Tournament at Rhoads. Still, I’m not hopeful at this moment, but ideally things come out and make this seem more probable.
I’m not a doctor, so I won’t speak about whether or not the decision should have been made. That’s not up to me. There are experts out there advising the NCAA when they make these choices. I’m just speaking about the result of these actions and what this means for our players and for this team. And, unfortunately, for me.
As a senior planning on graduating from the University of Alabama in May, my career as the radio guy for Crimson Tide Softball might be over. Maybe I’ll think about coming back for another year. Part of me wants to say I will now, but I know life happens and things can move forward beyond college.
So, I’ll pass along this message to the team I’ve covered for four years, in case our season truly is done and I’m no longer apart of the Bama U family…
To the players–thanks for making me feel like family. Yes, I recognize many of you thought I was 30 with kids at first (*cough, cough* KB Sides), but one y’all realized I was just like you, you welcomed me into the program with open arms. It’s been a pleasure to say your names for four incredible seasons, and I hope I get a chance in the future to do it again.
To the assistant coaches Stephanie VanBrakle Prothro, Aly Habetz, and Brynne Dordel–thanks for being so open and kind over the years. Talking softball with you and learning from each of you has been a true honor. I’m a better person because of y’all.
To our head coach, our fearless leader, Patrick Murphy–thanks for everything. You said yes when I was mentioned for this job, and I’m eternally grateful. The jokes, the pregame interviews, the postgame meals, and the many times I’ve spent time with you off the field mean so much to me. Thank you for giving me a ring, which I’ll cherish forever. I know your heart hurts today too, Murph, but I want you to know that all of us who love Alabama softball love you and everything you’ve done for us. For me, you changed my life, even if you don’t know it, because you gave me a chance to fall in love with a sport and a team.
To the staff including SID extraordinaire Nathan Sheehan, Sherry Selby, Kate Harris, and so many others–thanks for welcoming me to Bama U. I was nervous when I first joined because I was young and new things are scary, but you welcomed me with open arms. You made life easy on the road away from friends and helped in more ways that I can even articulate. Bama U is truly a family, and I’m glad to be a member.
Finally, to my broadcast partner Tom Canterbury–thank you for being the best person with whom I’ve had the chance to work. Thanks for the laughs, the GoPro reactions, and the witty banter. Thanks for agreeing with my crazy idea to start a softball podcast and loving it just as much as I do. Thank you for understanding my crazy schedule and being willing to let me slip to the TV side every once in a while. The work we did together was special and fun, and the experiences were ones I’ll never forget in my entire life.
Today is my least favorite day ever. Again, I don’t know if I’m not coming back or that the seniors won’t get another year. I could care less about me–they DESERVE another season of eligibility. To have everything you love, the sport you love, the team you love ripped away from you in one day is brutal in a way I can’t even comprehend. I understand why we’re doing all of this, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be devastated. It stretches just beyond Alabama–lots of other softball and baseball programs are sorting through the same emotions I am. Hopefully, this will be sorted out quickly. Hopefully, life can return to normal as soon as possible.
Until then, I mean every word I’ve said. I love my job, I love this program, and I love #Team24. Hopefully we get another chance to Party at Rhoads together. If not, well, it’s been an honor to be part of such a special group of people.