Southwest Mississippi Community College Head Baseball Coach Ken Jackson has seen a lot over his 35-plus years in the profession.
But in year 36, he has been hit with something that he has never had to deal with.
The spread of COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus has halted spring sports in several leagues across the nation, some even shutting down altogether.
For Jackson and his Bears, it was the latter. The National Junior College Athletics Association announced Monday that it made the difficult decision to cancel spring sports.
"Obviously these are unprecedented times," Jackson said. "The biggest thing is that you feel disappointed for our kids and everyone involved from our players to our coaches. The time, the effort, the energy lost, you feel for that. That is the first thing that goes through your mind, obviously."
But while he is disappointed, Jackson also understands why the move was made.
"But then you sit back and think about it and your realize that life is much bigger than sports and you have to put things in perspective," he said. "This is something that we have never had to deal with so it is hard to mentally wrap your head around this."
Jackson was then left with the unfortunate task of having to notify his players, who may not have seen the statement released on social media by the NJCAA.
"I texted the whole team," he said. "And then I personally contacted all of our sophomores and I am talking to all of our freshman. Obviously the sophomores are being affected by this more."
What is more heartbreaking for the Bears (6-9) is that they were on the verge of beginning conference play, riding a four-game win streak. SMCC was set to open conference play on March 14 hosting Mississippi Delta Community College.
The 2020 Bears had 11 sophomores on a roster of 30 players. One of those sophomores is former Parklane Pioneer Logan Larrimore, who was left in disbelief after hearing the news Monday.
"It kind of put you in shock, honestly, when you saw it happening," he said. "You kind of had a little bit of hope that it wouldn't have happened to you, but it still left you in shock. Nobody has ever experienced this, so you don't know what the future is going to be like."
Moving forward, Larrimore added that he is going to continue to train in the hopes that he can resume his baseball career again.
Fellow sophomore Britt Netterville shares the same feeling as Larrimore, adding that he was completely heartbroken hearing the news. "We worked so hard in the fall as a team and just building up a brotherhood, to have it taken away like that." he said.
And like Larrimore, Netterville — a Centerville Academy graduate — is weighing his options as far as his future in the sport.
"I have a few offers, and you never know what will come along, but I will keep working, because you never know what the future holds," he said. "I don't have anything set in stone as far as what I am going to do next year, but all options are available."
Jackson understands that the spread of coronavirus affects many in the sports world, but he feels like it is unique for junior colleges.
"I think that the junior colleges are affected more than anybody," he said. "On the senior college level there are things that you can take and stay in school for another year. On the junior college level you are limited, and I think that some of our kids are limited."
In addition to making the announcement canceling spring sports, the NJCAA also said that players of its member colleges will not be charged for a year of participation.
"We do know that, that is what has been talked about," Jackson said. "We know that (it will be as if) this season had never happened. It is not a redshirt year, it is a year that will not be counted as a year of eligibility. That is what we've been told."
Jackson adds that his coaches share the same feeling of disappointment that the season has been canceled. But through it all, Jackson has faith that things will return to normal at some point and he and his team can focus on the future.
"It will all work itself out," he said. "Again, it is uncharted waters, and I really believe that. God is in control. That is why I believe it, and it is unknown, but God is in control. I live my life like that every day."