‘A really hard pill to swallow’: FAU baseball seniors disappointed by short-lived season

For some FAU baseball players, the pandemic puts their MLB dreams on hold — but they’re OK with it.

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Through 16 games, second baseman Francisco Urbaez hit two home runs with nine RBIs while batting a .292 average. Photo by Alex Liscio.

Zachary Weinberger, Sports Editor

Senior second baseman Francisco Urbaez didn’t expect to have his last practice in the middle of March. It was supposed to be in May — until the season ended because of coronavirus. 

“It was a sad day because everyone kind of knew about the situation,” Urbaez said. “So we just went out there and had a lot of fun. We were enjoying each other’s company and just giving everything out there for one last time.”

The Owls only played 16 games in the season before their March 11 matchup against Penn was canceled when Ivy League Presidents decided to call off the rest of spring competition. Conference USA followed suit the next day as FAU was preparing for their conference opener against Old Dominion that weekend. 

For FAU baseball players, that was a huge blow to their season — and for some, their MLB dreams.

“The coronavirus threat has had some impact on my plans in life,” said senior outfielder Bobby Morgensen. “I had aspirations of being drafted, but the draft was shortened to possibly five rounds because of the pandemic, which will make it hard to get drafted.”

Urbaez said he’s focused on the present and disappointed he can’t represent the university this year. 

“It has affected me in a big way,” Urbaez said. “I was really excited to go out there and win games and show what FAU baseball is capable of. It got everyone off their plans and goals, but in my opinion, God has a plan, you just have to trust it.”

The second baseman said that while the situation is temporary, a lot of his daily routine has changed. 

“It’s changed a lot I would say, because now I have nothing to do athletically,” Urbaez said. “Of course I still have to do my homework and everything, but I just have a lot of free time now that I don’t know what to do with it.”

FAU was on track to once again be a top team in the conference as they were 10-6, one win against the Miami Hurricanes, but the team will have to wait until next spring to redeem themselves. 

While the season ended abruptly, Urbaez and the rest of the team found the situation to be inevitable. Urbaez was on his way to another productive season, batting .292 with two home runs and nine RBIs. 

“It was a really hard pill to swallow, but at the same time, we were kind of prepared for it,” Urbaez said. “Our coach mentioned to us on several occasions to be ready mentally, just in case it happens. After C-USA suspended our season, we knew it was going to be a matter of days for our season to get canceled.”

While the baseball players said they’re disappointed about the season, they said the decision to cancel the rest of the season was the right thing to do.

“This is a scary disease that is taking lives and it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part in stopping it,” Morgensen said.   

Bobby Morgensen, a senior from Nebraska, is disappointed that the season is abruptly over, but understands the severity of the situation. Photo by Alex Liscio.

Morgensen was in the heart of the batting lineup for the Owls as he hit three home runs, drove in 12 runs and batted .274. 

“It is hard, but I think it is the right decision,” Urbaez said. “With how fast this virus is spreading, I think the right thing to do is to keep everyone safe. Every baseball player right now would love to be out there, but it’s better to be safe than to have regrets later about something you could’ve avoided.”

In the early stages of the outbreak, head coach John McCormack, who was in his 12th season as head coach, said he stressed to the team the worst outcome so the players can be prepared, but is still disappointed by the result.

“Of course I am disappointed by it, but it pales in comparison to what is going on around the world,” McCormack said. “I often speak to the team about putting baseball in perspective to what is going on in the world and this is exactly what I mean. The health and welfare of our families, teammates, co-workers, and the world is much more important.”

While the seniors’ seasons are cut short, the NCAA made a decision on March 30 that granted an extra year of eligibility to student-athletes that participated in sports in the spring semester, which includes baseball. 

Both Urbaez and Morgensen feel it was the right decision by the NCAA to give the seniors another chance to finish their collegiate careers, and their goal for next year is straightforward. 

“It is only fair to offer an extra year of eligibility to us because it was something completely out of our control,” Morgensen said. “I would say that our plans for next season remain the same: win the conference, win the conference tournament, win a regional and win a super regional.”

Urbaez is happy to continue his baseball journey in the hopes of getting drafted and boosting his already adequate college career. 

“It feels great honestly, getting another opportunity to play college baseball is an unbelievable feeling,” Urbaez said. “In my opinion, it was the right decision by the NCAA. I think that every single spring sport student-athlete is really grateful about this decision, so everyone can go back and do what they love.”

Zachary Weinberger is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @ZachWeinberger.