WVU Baseball Coach Randy Mazey: ‘I Think Everyone Still Is In A Little Bit Of Shock’
The edict came down last Thursday, as West Virginia University director of athletics Shane Lyons announced that the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, like most other sporting activities in the U.S., was suspending all upcoming athletic events because of the threat from the COVID-19 virus.
“I want our student-athletes, coaches and fans to be safe and for our department to follow the recommendations of the medical professionals,” said Lyons. “This is a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of our University, community, teams and support staff. The situation is fluid and we will monitor it daily to make the best decisions for all involved.”
The Mountaineer baseball team was on a bus Thursday, its first leg in a journey that was to eventually take it to the airport and then on to Lubbock for a weekend series with Texas Tech, when the suspension announcement was made.
The bus turned back around before it ever got to the airport and returned to Morgantown. When WVU would play another baseball game was uncertain.
“I don’t think when we initially turned around that anybody understood the gravity of the entire situation,” West Virginia head baseball coach Randy Mazey said in an interview on the MetroNews Statewide Sportsline. “First it was, ‘Hey, we’re not going to Lubbock.’ An hour later it was, ‘Hey, we’re not going to Kansas the next week.’ Another hour later it was, ‘Hey, we’re not playing George Mason the following weekend.’ It just took on a life of its own. It was so hard to react to, and I think everyone still is in a little bit of shock. One day I was giving the bunt sign and calling pitches as we had a big-time shutout (7-0) win against Liberty on our home field. Within 24 hours of that, the world changed in a heartbeat.”
Initially there was some hope that most college spring sports would get a chance to restart play after a few weeks’ hiatus. But eventually it was decided to shut down all winter and spring championships for the 2020 season.
“I’m really disappointed for our team, especially the seniors, but the health and safety of our kids takes precedence over baseball and always will,” added Mazey. “This is one of those tough parts of life that our players will have to learn how to get through. They will have each other, and we will help support them in any way we can.”
Coming off one of the greatest seasons in WVU baseball history (38-22 and hosting an NCAA Tournament regional) in 2019, Mazey had rebuilt his roster and was off to a hot start in 2020 with an 11-5 record heading into what would have been the team’s first Big 12 series of the year at Texas Tech.
And then … well, you know the rest.
“I told our team that in times of crisis, you look back on people from the past and how they reacted to it similar situations,” said Mazey, who took over as WVU’s baseball coach in 2013. “Some quotes come to mind, and these are some of the quotes I shared with our guys: No. 1, the quote from the Boy Scouts says, ‘Be Prepared!’ It’s going to be pretty hard to avoid the virus in West Virginia, so the best way to avoid it is to prepare for it. So, we’re going to do all we can in terms of personal hygiene.
“And to take another quote from the late, great Abraham Lincoln, ‘This too shall pass.’ It always does. Us older folks remember the swine flu and the SARs virus, and all that stuff passed, just like this one will. Then the third quote I told them was from Coach Mazey’s 14 rules to live by. No. 7 is ‘Never panic.’ That’s one thing we’re not going to do. One of the reasons we’ve had a ton of success in our program is our kids are taught not to panic. That’s what we’re going with right now.”
There is groundswell of support for the NCAA to allow current spring sport athletes, especially the seniors who have had their final year of college competition pulled out from under them, an additional year of eligibility so they can return in 2021 if they wish.
“They dang sure deserve it,” said Mazey of the idea of granting those effected an additional season of eligibility. “If they only play 16 or so games out of potentially 50 or 60 or whatever you can play, you definitely deserve to get your season of eligibility back. Obviously that creates some other cans of worms in our sport with Major League draft and roster limits and scholarship limits and travel limits. You are basically adding a freshman class to an existing team, which creates some other issues. In our world of coaching college baseball, we’re used to stuff like this because of the draft, transfer rules, scholarship limits and those types of things. We’ll adjust accordingly. We always do. Anytime there is a big change, people grumble about it for a while, but eventually you just have to adapt to it. That’s what we’ll do. College baseball coaches have been doing that for 50 years.”
There are many issues, both big and small, currently enveloping the world as it battles to coronavirus threat.
“This is something 20 years from now people will still be talking about,” said Mazey. “This is unprecedented. It’s something everyone has to learn how to deal with. At some point we will return to a sense of normalcy.
“As bad as it is and as tough as it is to go through, eventually it will be a life lesson everyone can learn from and we can all teach to our children how to overcome adverse situations. ‘I know you are having a tough day, but listen what happened 15 years ago. I got through that just fine, and you will too.’”