CHS baseball returns with COVID-19 changes
by Andrew Alonzo
With the pandemic slowly receding and coronavirus case rates dropping, the Claremont High School varsity baseball team was back in full swing this week.
Varsity Baseball Coach Charlie Reynoso, who is also a 1983 CHS alumnus, said the team is really excited to play again.
“I think playing [baseball] in itself is an accomplishment,” Coach Reynoso said.
However, just because baseball is returning does not mean the high school equivalent of America’s pastime will look the same as it did in previous years.
The team will have to follow updated California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) baseball guidelines, Coach Reynoso explained, which include some familiar requirements such as social distancing and wearing a face covering.
Though the fundamentals of the sport remain the same, the team will be making some adjustments. There will be no more handshakes following the game and the coaches must have sanitized baseballs and equipment ready and keep a “dirty” baseball bucket on-hand. Pitchers will no longer be allowed to lick their fingers to increase grip on the ball, and there will be no more chewing seeds or gum during games. Even the umpires will make some adjustments including no longer receiving or exchanging line-up cards.
The virus shortened the season last spring to just 13 games, so the hunger to return to play has only increased in 2021.
“There’s been a lot less baseball being played in these last two years, therefore it’s been tough on the juniors and seniors last year who did not get to play a whole lot,” Coach Reynoso said.
During their downtime scheduled around online classes, players had to work out at home to maintain their game-ready fitness.
While coaches waited for answers from the county health department and school district on whether or not the team could practice again, even with accommodations, no such answer materialized until February when they were told practices had to be broken up into sets.
CHS was able to resume on-campus hitting and fielding practice on February 3, working with the players in groups of 10 for one-hour intervals. However, they were forced to suspend workouts on two separate occasions.
Finally, on February 22, the team got the green light from the state and Los Angeles County Public Health Department to resume full-roster practices, and returned to the field for the first time together on March 1.
“[CIF] is following county guidelines and we’re following that as well, and our district has its own rules and regulations we abide by,” Coach Reynoso said.
The CHS baseball teams will have a full spring season including a light preseason, Palomares league play, tournament appearances and a postseason totaling between 26 to 30 games. Claremont will also field a junior varsity and a freshman team.
Although play will return soon, fans will not be, as Coach Reynoso confirmed spectators will not be able to attend CHS games for the time being nor will they have the option to watch games online.
“At the moment in-person attendance is not allowed at games. But that can change literally tomorrow,” Coach Reynoso said.
Coach Reynoso said the roster is still being finalized but starting pitcher duties will likey go to sophomore Gavin Eddy. However, the role is still up in the air with sophomore James Pirrie, junior Aiden Ross and senior Nathan Elias challenging Eddy for the top spot on the mound.
When asked about hitting this season, Coach Reynoso was quick to drop three names: senior catcher and outfielder Jacob Klinovsky, junior catcher and pitcher Kenny Wang and junior outfielder Adam Aguirre. All three are returning from last season.
“We’re pitching well, throwing strikes and cleaning up on defense. We just need to keep improving before the season starts,” Coach Reynoso said. “We just need to score enough runs to win games.”
The Wolfpacks’ first game is scheduled for Friday, March 19, at Damien High School at 3 p.m.