COVID-19 shutdown of sports hurts more than just the athletes

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Field Locked
Softball field at the University of the Pacific is locked to prevent access. Photo by Paul Muyskens / @ThatsAnError

Working in sports is something that many enjoy, myself included, even if we aren’t making the big money doing it like some of the athletes we cover.

But because of COVID-19, sports are now virtually non-existent at all levels – something that hurts not just those that play, but everyone who makes a living from them in some way.

While many professional teams, with help from players, have done what they can to make sure their employees are taken care of financially in the meantime, there are plenty of others, myself included, who are heavily involved in sports but not really in a spot where they can be helped out by actions such as those.

Many jobs in sports are done by independent contractors and because of that, it is not easy to find a way to financially take care of those people when games originally scheduled are no longer played.

Recently with the cancellation of the California Community College Athletic Association state basketball finals, I missed out on freelance opportunities to shoot photos and cover the games for newspapers.

This Saturday would have been the start of a 12-game homestand for the University of the Pacific softball team and with the games canceled the need for me to broadcast the games is no longer needed and will be another missed source of income.

With more and more cities adopting “shelter-in-place” policies,  discouraging or outright forbidding going out for anything that is non-essential, and wanting a photo to use for an upcoming story, I headed out to take some photos while I still could.

Seeing two older gentlemen playing tennis on a court down the street, I drove a little slower past the courts so I could watch for a brief moment. Later, as I passed a park, I saw a group of kids playing basketball and I sat at the stop sign for a little longer than needed to take a peek. As my adventure neared an end, I heard a sound that got me to pull in and park. It was a sound that I knew all too well – the crack of a ball coming off a baseball bat.

Five players and a dad had found an open baseball field and were starting to take batting practice. Recognizing a few of the faces, I decided to walk on over and check it out for a few minutes.

Very quickly, a couple of minutes turned into a couple of hours of talking and watching them take batting practice. I am certainly not a medical professional and, even though we stayed a good distance from each other, should we have been out there? I don’t know but I’m certainly glad I heard that familiar sound and stopped.

The five players varied in age and skills, from a player currently in high school all the way to a player that is part of the Los Angeles Angels farm system.

“Baseball is all I know,” said one of the players. “I can’t go to school because my classes have all been canceled and I can’t even go work as my job as a personal trainer is shut down.”

As someone who worked well over 300 games during the 2019 year, I can certainly relate. It has now been more than a week since the last game I worked, when the Stockton Kings played what is likely their final game of the season on March 11.

The last time I went this long without working a game was two summers ago when I took my first real vacation and went to Hawaii for a week.

This school year, and my final semester at the Collegian, is going to end in ways that certainly no one would have expected in January. The biggest for me, of course, is that there won’t be games to write about for the sports section.

Going into class to put together a newspaper will not be allowed for at least one issue, because Delta has closed down in-person labs until April 6. That’s disappointing because I enjoy not just sports, but being a part of the newspaper staff and the people I get to be around.

There may not be games to write about, but there are still plenty of amazing people and stories to write.

I look forward to sharing them with you.

You can contact or follow me on twitter @ThatsAnError.