Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Although understandable, MIAA's decision to cancel sports still stings

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It wasn't at all unexpected. That did not, however, make Friday's decision to cancel spring high school sports any easier to take.When Taconic baseball player Brendan Stannard said to me "It's an utterly awful feeling," he could have been talking for any one of his teammates, anyone on the Hoosac Valley girls lacrosse team or anyone on the Monument Mountain track and field team.

When the MIAA's Board of Directors finished its unanimous vote to curtail the spring regular and postseason, most of the response was one of this wasn't a surprise, or why didn't it happen earlier, or why did it need to happen at all?

"We were all cautiously optimistic for the sake of wanting to provide positive experiences and positive events that are traditionally experienced by high school kids," Pittsfield schools athletic director Jim Abel said. "Obviously, things are out of our control.

"It's discouraging. It's disappointing. But at the same time, we'll persevere through this."

It certainly would have been interesting to see if the Taconic baseball team could have made it four Western Massachusetts championships in a row, an unheard of feat in this day and age. Would the Mount Greylock girls' lacrosse team finally make it over the hump of losing in the Central/Western Mass. championship game? After finishing just off the championship rung, would the Mount Greylock girls' track and field team finally jump that final step and become a Central/Western Mass. champion?

"None of us are actually experts on the matter, but based on the landscape of things locally and throughout the country," Abel said, "we were kind of anticipating this."

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The Board of Directors, of which Mount Greylock athletics director Lindsey von Holtz is the vice president, and the Tournament Management Committee, of which Wahconah athletic director Jared Shannon is a member, deserve a lot of credit for trying to fit 10-pounds of a spring season into a five-pound bag.

It was critical that the TMC and the Board play for the possible restoration of spring sports. The alternative, a return to school without a sports plan, was untenable. There had to be a plan in place, should good news occur. It was the best plan anyone could come up with, and one I would have thought was extremely workable.

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So as of today, only a few states — including Connecticut and Vermont — have not canceled their spring seasons. I was told by old friend Chris Watson, the communications director for the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association that a decision on New York cancellations could come as early as Monday. He said they have been gathering information from the 11 sections in the state and the NYSPHSA will then make a decision.

Connecticut, however, is on a slightly different calendar. The state to our south has not yet put an end to regular-season play for the spring. There will be no postseason play.

"After much consideration, the CIAC has decided that any potential spring sports experiences will be limited to the month of June. Carrying spring sport experiences from the current school year into July presents significant challenges for school districts and student-athletes," a statement read. "The CIAC has also decided that we will not run any spring state championship events. It is our position that any spring sports experience should maximize opportunities for student-athletes within individual schools and leagues."

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Connecticut has not yet canceled because Gov. Ned Lamont said schools would be closed until May 20. So the CIAC is waiting until then to, in all likelihood, cancel.

The Pittsfield athletic director, in our conversation, floated an interesting thought about trying to honor the spring sport seniors of 2020.

"For the graduating seniors, who are missing out on proms and traditional graduations and Senior Days for their athletic teams, we're going to definitely seek ways to recognize them," Abel said, "and to celebrate their accomplishments and their careers. They won't be forgotten."

Here's hoping they won't be.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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