Charles King’s baseball journey may very well end in TCU purple.
Conner Shepherd’s, too.
Guys like Zach Humphreys and Haylen Green could certainly pursue pro ball, but neither is a sure-fire prospect when it comes to the MLB.
But, in all likelihood, when TCU Baseball’s season was cut short due to the Coronavirus pandemic a few weeks ago, so were the baseball careers of hundreds of players across the country.
In a single flash, a single instance, their time on the diamond was over (and the hardwood, and the track, and other arenas and fields across collegiate athletics). For many Horned Frogs, it was a brutal reality that they weren’t prepared to face.
Today, Monday, the NCAA will vote on a proposal that would grant seniors an extra season of competitive eligibility. Passing it would bring tons of questions and be a logistical nightmare, sure, but failing it would be an injustice. Over the weekend, several TCU Baseball athletes (and their coaches and families) took to twitter to plead for one more chance to take the field, and their words are incredibly powerful.
Pitcher Haylen Green, who was off to a torrid start in 2020, was the first to “speak”:
His eloquent note inspired several of his teammates to follow suit, including Conner Shepherd:
... and my personal favorite, Chuck King’s mom:
Again, allowing each of these athletes an extra year — for TCU, that would be up to eight players returning (although it’s unlikely all eight would) — brings up all kinds of logistical issues; what do you do with baseball’s antiquated scholarship rules (11.7 per program) when you are potentially increasing roster size by 25-35%? What happens to the younger players who now could get stuck behind a fifth or sixth year senior on the depth chart for another year? How about the incoming freshmen? Would more top prospects elect to go pro when faced with the prospect of a year on the bench?
It’s not an easy decision, and I can appreciate the difficult spot the NCAA governing body is in.
(and it’s a big but)
... there’s no justice in having to call it a career 15 games into a season. Not when you’ve worked so hard to put yourself in the position to succeed. Not when you don’t get to walk off the field on your own accord. Not when your last moments aren’t spent with tears of joy, or even tears of failure, but tears of a different kind of loss.
Football players can redshirt as long as they don’t play in more than four games, or 1⁄3 of the season. Medical redshirts are issued for athletes that get hurt in the first half of the year. 15 games is about a third of the baseball season, so it’s likely any player that had gotten hurt at this point would have gotten an extra year — so, can’t we make this work for this kids, when the whole world has shut down under a pandemic?
The NCAA absolutely did the right thing in ending the seasons, in taking fans out of the stands and players off of the field. The longer this period of shelter in place and quarantine stretches on, the more obvious that is. And while we all pine for March Madness and would love to watch guys like Haylen and Chuck under the lights at Lupton, I am appreciative of the swift and decisive action taken by the leadership across sports.
This was a really special group; if you watched them play, if you saw the way they interacted with each other on the field and in the dugout, if you had the chance to speak with the players and get to know their character — it was obvious that they were bound for big things. But, even if they weren’t, it doesn’t matter — they should get a chance to go out on their own terms.
I don’t pretend to know the answers as to how to make this work (though people that follow the game closely have some pretty good ideas). I don’t claim to know if winter athletes should get an extra year too — though I so badly want to see the six seniors from TCU Women’s Basketball make another run at the NCAA Tournament — all I know is, it seems that the right thing to do is pretty obvious. How to make it work? That’s for someone else to figure out.
When the NCAA governing body votes today, I hope the words of Haylen Green, Charles King, Conner Shepherd, and countless other players and coaches ring in their ears and resonate in their hearts.
Let’s give them one more year, and see what this team can do in 2021. It’s the right thing to do.