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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Panther baseball returns after a year-long hiatus
Sacramento City head coach Derek Sullivan goes over signs before Saturdays scrimmage at Union Stadium on April 16, 2021. Dianne Rose/[email protected]

As Sacramento County moved from the restricted purple to the red tier on March 16, the coaching staff at City College received the green light to practice and play their first games against other baseball teams in the Los Rios district. After 13 months without team practice or games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Panthers baseball players have returned to Union Stadium.

The Panthers baseball team returned to play April 23, winning their first game 6-1 against American River College. Hearing the news on a Zoom call with other coaches about returning to play, City College Baseball Coach Deskaheh Bomberry said he felt a sense of relief. With protocols put in place to take safe health measures, Panther baseball is making a return to the field, cleared to play 15 games in a shortened season.

The team was released to compete only with the other teams within the Los Rios district. Their record for the season stands at 3-1. Panther Baseball so far has faced both American River College and Folsom Lake College twice. They lost to American River in their second game on April 24 with a score of 6-4 but followed with back to back wins versus Folsom Lake College, 4-3 and 6-4.   

“We played all right. I think we were all just happy to be back on the field,” said Bomberry. 

The team held its first practice March 29. Before the baseball team could collectively return to in-person activity, players and coaches had to be tested for COVID-19. Bomberry said the strictly enforced protocols allow the team to play on the field together.

“During practice masks are worn,” said Bomberry. “Social distancing [is enforced] during meetings, [there is] one way in and one way out at the field and players bring their own water bottles.”

According to Bomberry, who is the team’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, players and coaches have their temperatures checked before each practice and game, in addition to COVID-19 testing every two weeks, unless symptoms appear.

“Every morning before 10 a.m., coaches and players have to fill out a questionnaire [about their health status],” said Bomberry. “At Hughes Stadium, we are given wristbands to ensure [players] were cleared for that day.”

In the early weeks of practice, players focused on teaching new players warmup and stretching routines. According to Bomberry, players also received instruction on their daily responsibilities and on the Panthers baseball throwing program.

“I think the players were excited to get back,” said Bomberry. “A lot of the first day was [spent] really getting to know who everybody was.”

Despite all the modifications due to COVID-19, Bomberry sees a benefit to the shortened season.

“Obviously, playing games is important to get better at your sport, but just as important is developing your individual skills, getting stronger, getting faster, figuring out how to throw harder,” said Bomberry.

May 29 is the last day of the season, which only gives the players a few weeks to play, but Bomberry said the agenda for the team is set. 

“We need to make sure our sophomores get enough playing time for scholarships,” said Bomberry. “And for the freshmen, to get them acquainted with what it’s like playing baseball at Sac City.”

Greg Nichols, a sophomore and middle infielder for the Panthers, said one of the overall team goals is to make sure that new players grasp the fundamentals of the game so they’ll be prepared to pass that knowledge along next season.

“For the freshman, the biggest goal is to get them ready for next year so they have a good understanding about what is expected of them. Then, they can teach the incoming freshman following them,” said Nichols. “For the returners, you have to get as good as you possibly can so you can get out to the next level. For some guys it’s either to go pro or to go division one.”

His year-long absence from playing the game he loves taught Nichols to never take baseball for granted.

“I realized that baseball is not a forever thing and you only have it for a certain amount of time in your life,” said Nichols. “You have to really work hard while you have it and go as far as you can with it, or else it can be gone just with the snap of a finger.”

Dennis Boatman, a third-year sophomore pitcher, said he is excited that he and the team have the opportunity to get back into the swing of things.

“Sometimes practice can be a little tiring. But not having done it in such a long time, we were all super excited to go to practice, which is maybe a different feeling than what it would be in the fall,” said Boatman.

Boatman is confident that the season essentially being reduced by half has made the team laser-focused and motivated more than ever.

“As soon as we get going, we’re giving it everything we have because we only have six to eight weeks of practice and games,” said Boatman. “I was talking to some of the other guys and this might be the last six to eight weeks of their baseball careers.These are the last six to eight weeks to prove to a college that they can play at the next level.”

As they have had an opportunity to return not a day is planned to be wasted. 

“We thought we weren’t going to be able to play these games, and now that we can, let’s take advantage of that and give it everything we got,” said Boatman.

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