On a recent sunny day, Derek Salata and Ryan Cermak got together to play catch at a park in suburban Westchester. These days, it's the closest the two Illinois State baseball players can get to playing a game.
"It’s weird and it’s something that’ll never happen in your lifetime again," Cermak said. "Just knowing that a baseball season -- that not everyone gets to have for the rest of their life -- gets cancelled, it’s hard to think about."
Along with the rest of the Redbirds, the west suburban-natives were in Florida playing games when the sports world started to shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic. When their coach delivered the news that their season was cancelled after just 16 games, it was like a punch to the gut.
"Had no idea what to do, what to say, what to think at the time, because it was all just news to us," remembers Salata. "So it was hard to take."
Salata, a sophomore pitcher, and Cermak, a freshman infielder, can't help but feel disappointed their season was cut so short.
"It’s heartbreaking knowing that your season could be cancelled just like that, out of your control," said Cermak.
But from the disappointment of a cancelled season, a silver lining has emerged. The NCAA recently ruled that all spring sports athletes can gain an extra season of eligibility. Rules normally limit athletes to four seasons of competition during a five-year period. Salata and Cermak say they both plan to take advantage of the unique opportunity.
"I wouldn’t mind the do-over where I get to replay my sophomore year," Salata said. "I’ve known baseball all my life, I’ve played it since I can remember. It’s just a lifestyle at this point," added the Nazareth Academy graduate.
"My eyes lit up, because baseball means the world to me," said Cermak. "Just knowing I can have an extra year of my life playing college baseball with my friends, meeting new people ... just means the world to me," added the graduate of Riverside Brookfield High School.
For now, both players continue their school work and workout schedules at home and wait to hear when they'll be able to get back together with their ISU teammates.