Striking out COVID-19

A familiar banner to CSUN baseball fans stretches across the back of the bleachers at Matador field in Northridge, Calif., on March 13, 2021. Photo by Reyna Torres.

Story by Reyna Torres, Andre Lopez, Clarissa Corral, Kobe Siy, and Angelica Lopez

The CSUN Matadors’ baseball field and bleachers have been empty since the beginning of the pandemic.

But now, it’s March 13, 2021 and the field is back in action.

The Matadors are out on the field warming up for their first scrimmage against opponent team Concordia. Excitement was seen throughout the morning as they prepared for the game while getting pumped up to some tunes.

Left: CSUN Outfielder Robert Bullard gets ready in the on deck circle in his first at bat of the season at the Matador baseball field in Northridge, Calif., on March 13, 2021. Photo by Andre Lopez. Middle and right photo: The CSUN Matadors huddle up as a team before a scrimmage against Concordia College in Northridge, Calif., on March 13, 2021. What was once a arena full of baseball fans is now an empty area as COVID-19 has taken its toll on college sports. CSUN’s baseball team will play their season without fans in attendance. Photos by Reyna Torres.

Senior right-handed pitcher Jackson Cunningham was thrilled to be back out on the field again.

“Looking forward for a win and to see my teammates compete against the other opponent,” Cunningham said.

CSUN Right-handed pitcher Jackson Cunningham talks to media before practice about the impact of COVID-19 on the team and season in Northridge, Calif., on March 13, 2021. Photo by Andre Lopez.

COVID-19 has affected the team’s season and has been a challenge for Cunningham because he can not visit his family out in Georgia.

“It was mentally challenging,” Cunningham said. “But knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel trying to come back.”

CSUN’s baseball head coach Dave Serrano was excited to see the whole team together out on the field for their scrimmage day.

“It’s kind of surreal to be back out there on the field after so long,” Serrano said. “It’s therapeutic for each and almost one of us, that we are back doing what we love and being back as a team.”

Coaches have been doing their best on keeping their players safe on the field from COVID-19.

Serrano has been following all COVID-19 safety guidelines. He sees his players are taking disciplinary actions in keeping themselves safe since they are looking forward to a great season.

Serrano sees potential and effort in all his players to prosper in baseball.

“That’s what brings so much passion to me as a coach,” Serrano said. “Seeing your players develop into better people and better players throughout their career.”

CSUN Athletics Assistant Director, Sports Communication Nicholas Bocanegra was out on the field making sure the preparation of the scrimmage was in good hands.

Bocanegra’s responsibilities consist of making sure everything is in the right place for all the sport teams. He oversees the press box, the filling in of the scoreboards and gathering the game stats.

Bocanegra is adjusting to the new protocols of the sports department during COVID-19.

“Only way I can describe it as is that it’s different. Everyone had to adjust to everything,” Bocanegra said.

CSUN’s Assistant Director of Sports Communication Nicholas Bocanegra reflects on what plans need to be put in place to allow CSUN to continue playing baseball on March 13, 2021 in Northridge, Calif. Photo by Reyna Torres.

Before the pandemic, Bocanegra arranged all the interviews for the players and would easily get them to talk to people. He feels the players are doing OK with making new adjustments and that the players are “flexible and doing the best they can.”

Senior utility baseball player Kai Moody felt it was nice to be back home playing in their field despite a year of challenges and uncertainty for baseball season. Baseball is all he knows.

“It’s what I wake up to and think about,” Moody said.

COVID-19 has made it impossible for him to see his friends or to have much time to prepare for a season.

In order to maintain COVID-19 safe and allow teams to play games, they must secure a designated area. Below is a players only dugout section containing spaced out chairs and mandatory masks on March 13, 2021 in Northridge, Calif. Photo by Andre Lopez.

“It’s hard to be a student athlete when all eyes are on us, we can’t mess up,” Moody said.

Senior utility player Kai Moody led the team in eight walks during the 2020 baseball season. Infographic by Kobe Siy.

Moody looks forward for his team to be the last one standing since they work endlessly with a tip over their shoulders.

Senior infielder Gabe Gonzalez was delighted to be out on the field again together as a team.

Gonzalez likes how the team is considered underdogs in their conference division. He feels motivated in knowing that the new coaches give them the spirit to win regardless of what others might say.

Before being a senior infielder for the Matadors, Gabe Gonzalez played for Chatsworth High School and Los Angeles Mission College. Infographic by Kobe Siy.

Over the years, Gonzalez has come to realize that baseball helps you grow mentally as a person.

“It taught me to be competitive and a better person,” Gonzalez said. “It helps your character, it shows what you’re really made of.”

In December 2020, Gonzalez had contracted COVID-19. He was isolated in his room for about 20 days. He was not able to breathe and his annual sickness with bronchitis made it difficult on his breathing.

Despite his sickness, he learned a positive outcome from it.

“It helped me make better decisions and was focused on getting better for baseball,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t have the luxury of getting sick.”

The CSUN Matadors practice at the Matador baseball field. Video editing by Clarissa Corral.



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