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Cal Poly athletics ready for busy spring season despite constant curveballs thrown by COVID-19

Cal Poly baseball practice
The Cal Poly baseball team practices at Baggett Stadium in preparation of its 2021 season opener. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly is gearing up for a very busy spring sports season despite having to deal with constant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, the baseball team begins its 56-game schedule with a its season opener at home with Nevada.

"We're looking forward to it, getting back on the field and play some outside competition," said head coach Larry Lee. "It's been 11 months. We got shutdown in mid-March of last year and I'm really looking forward to playing somebody besides ourselves."

The baseball team is just the latest program to begin competitive action during this pandemic-affected school year.

"It hasn't been without our setbacks here and there, but I'm really pleased and proud of how our student-athletes reacted to all of this," said athletic director Don Oberhelman. "There's been protocols that have changed over time. I mean, we're now a year into this thing, but to be able to have spring sports in action right now, so I'm really excited to see the progress. I think our student-athletes have exhibited a lot of patience in this time, as all students have. I think it's been a real struggle for everybody to get through this, not just student-athletes, but I couldn't be more please with their resilience in how they've approached this."

Currently, there are several programs now in action, including basketball, golf, tennis, swimming and diving, cross country and wrestling.

"I just think they're happy to be out playing," said Oberhelman. "It's the best therapy in this time when you have constant change and constant things being thrown at these student-athletes. Being able to practice and being able to compete, is the best therapy they can have."

In order for athletics to take place, the university is having to comply with a number of safety measures and protocols.

"A lot of testing, up to three times a week our student-athletes are getting tested, depending on the nature of the sport," said Oberhelman. "That takes some time. It's a great expense. It tests everybody's patience. Obviously, the masking as much as we can. The cleanliness, the sanitizing of basketballs and footballs and everything else, so there's been a lot of protocols we've put into place, in addition to what the NCAA has asked, what the conference has asked, what county health has asked of us, but I think they've honored those as best they can, and when you walk around our building right now, you can see a lot of student-athletes that are doing everything that we can possibility ask of them to try and stay safe and continue to be able to practice and compete."

Even with all of the safety measures in place, Cal Poly has still had to deal with Covid-related issues, including positive tests.

"We've certainly have had a couple of setbacks as you would expect and we've seen that throughout the country, not just at Cal Poly, and not just with athletics, we've had setbacks, so we've had to delay," said Oberhelman. "We've had to postpone. We've had to outright cancel some events because of it."

Coronavirus has directed impacted the football program. Due to the virus, it's been paused for the past two weeks.

On Thursday, the university announced its upcoming season opener on Feb. 27 with UC Davis has been postponed.

"That's a setback," said Oberhelman. We've learned a few things from it. I hope our student-athletes have learned a few things from it in terms of how they need to take this a little bit more seriously maybe, and now we're going to be playing full on games in just a few weeks we hope."

The Mustangs are now scheduled to open the football season at home on March 26 with Weber State. The game with UC Davis has been rescheduled in Davis for March 20.

Another significant impact coronavirus has had on collegiate athletics in California is the current restriction on spectators.

"Everybody is pretty much aligned with no fans, so I don't see that changing this season," said Oberhelman. "We're really kind of focusing on fan attendance in the fall and hoping for things to be a little more normal at that point, but I think getting through this season without fans is what's going to occur."

Oberhelman is optimistic fans will be able to cheer on the Mustangs later in the year.

"The university has already announced, we're hoping for business as usual in the fall, in-person classes as normal, and everything else, and we're fully in line with that," said Oberhelman. "We're going to follow our university and assume and prepare that it's going to be more business as usual come fall."


California / College Sports / Coronavirus / San Luis Obispo County / What's Right
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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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