CASA GRANDE — Central Arizona College pitcher Mat Olsen was supposed to be spending Tuesday getting ready for his start against South Mountain College.
Instead, the 19-year-old former Florence Gopher spent the day playing the Diamond Dynasty mode on “MLB The Show 20” game on his PlayStation 4. The video game was a gift from his girlfriend.
“It’s kind of something we are all dealing with,” Olsen said of the season’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “You go from one day where you are practicing every day. I’m preparing for my start for South Mountain and then the next thing you know, the season’s been canceled. It’s kind of something that we are still trying to get used to, and we’re all going to have to make some adjustments.”
Last week, the NJCAA announced that all spring sports — and its men’s and women’s basketball national tournaments — were canceled. This came on the heels of the NCAA announcing a similar decision when calling off its men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments.
The result has the sports world, from pros to preps, in a state of limbo as medical experts and government officials work to try and figure out how to deal with the coronavirus.
“It really does suck,” Olsen said. “I think you have to turn it into a positive as much as it is a negative.”
One of the positives for Olsen is to weigh his options on what’s next for him. Prior to the season, he made a verbal comment to play at the University of Arizona along with potential options of returning to the Vaqueros or entering the MLB draft.
However, as with the sports world, those options are up in the air.
He said the NJCAA would grant an extra year of eligibility, just as the NCAA is leaning to do for its spring sports athletes. But then there’s the MLB draft, which could be in jeopardy as high school baseball seasons across the country are being postponed or canceled and scouts are unable to go to games and evaluate players.
“I’m going to have to make a pretty tough decision come July or early August,” Olsen said. “We don’t know what is going to happen with the draft at this point, if it is pushed back. I personally can’t see them canceling it because organizations have to fill those rosters. I definitely see them still doing it; I just think it’s a matter of when.
On Wednesday, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reported MLB is considering skipping its 2020 draft, scheduled to run June 10-12.
“It’s up in the air. Being 19 years old, I’ve never had to live through anything like this. It’s different for sure,” Olsen said.
In the meantime, Olsen is doing the best he can. He continues to work out, doing long tosses and hitting the gym every day.
His gym of choice has been 24/7 Fitness in Coolidge, but in light of the governor’s order on Thursday to close all gyms, along with restaurants and bars in counties effected by the coronavirus including Pinal County, Olsen will have to look elsewhere to stay in shape.
“If worse comes to worse, I have a couple of weights at my house, and push-ups and sit-ups will do the trick,” he said. “If things keep going the way it’s going, everyone is going to have to be creative.”
Olsen wouldn’t say if the NJCAA and the NCAA’s decision to cancel the entire spring sports season was an overreaction or if he felt they should’ve played a wait-and-see-approach similar to what the Arizona Interscholastic Association is doing.
“Obviously we want to play, so we’re not going to agree with it, but at the end of the day, we really don’t know what they know,” he said. “They could know more. It’s tough for me to say they overreacted. There’s probably not one guy that is happy the season (is) canceled, but at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure they had to make a tough decision. They probably made the decision that was best for our health. You have to look past baseball to see what’s best for everyone.”
In the meantime for Olsen and the rest of the CAC baseball team, it will always be a matter of what if when thinking back to this season. CAC was trying to win its second straight national championship.
“I not only felt good at what I had going, but what we had going. I thought that we were about to play our best baseball. I thought we had a legitimate chance of making another run,” Olsen said. “It’s tough. People don’t realize when you get into a groove and it’s every single day, and your off days are legitimate off days where you need them. Now you find yourself at home and whatnot.
“It’s tough, but I’m going to make the adjustments and make a decision on what’s best for my future here in the upcoming months.”