Life just threw us a curveball

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Photo provided by Steven Rissotto ‘20.

Steven Rissotto ‘20 throws a pitch during his bullpen session before the mandated shelter in place order.

Steven Rissotto ’20, Editor-In-Chief

Provided by Steven Rissotto ‘20
The Crusader baseball team takes some hacks in the batting cage on March 10.

Phew! Phew! Phew!

This is the sound of me hitting my spots, a pitching skill I’ve developed through the years with a creative aspect. For most dominant pitchers, if you blink, you miss the greatness they bring to the table. For me, you can blink three times and still see the painting I’m trying to piece together. I struggle or I thrive. One can’t have both in baseball.

I’m throwing a 30-pitch bullpen on a Tuesday afternoon in the fourth cage at the Pacifica Cages. As I said, I’m hitting my spots, but a strange, empty feeling tempered with concern is the driving force in my pitches. I should be in school. I should be covering news at Riordan. I should be in the middle of practice, which usually begins at 2:50. It’s 2:30, what am I doing 20 minutes south from where I should be?

In the stretch: 10 fastballs, three changeups, three sliders. Repeat in the windup. That’s one of my common routines in the bullpen. The last slider I throw is completely filthy, probably not safe for in-game use with everything that’s going on with hygiene all over the world.

The coronavirus has boiled over as a pandemic that seems to be getting worse and worse as time goes on. It’s a virus that masks as influenza, but exposes itself as the devil. A couple of months ago, this wasn’t a news story in the United States at all.

China was struggling with answers as their population was in jeopardy of losing some folks. The coughs and sneezes traveled to Italy, a country that now has their people under lockdown. The spread has reached the United States and the flu-like symptoms are now known by everyone.

Unfortunately, the Bay Area has made its fair share of headlines for a large number of cases dealt with, including an infected Grand Princess cruise ship that sat just off the coast for several days while government health officials decided what to do with those stranded on the luxury cruiser.

There are many arguments to make regarding this topic. First and foremost, washing one’s hands should already be a regular occurrence in one’s lifestyle. Unfortunately, it’s not. Corona beer has also been criticized, as just over 30 percent of beer drinkers won’t touch the brand from here on out. There’s never any shortage of entertainment among the American people, especially when crisis strikes.

As I’m standing on the turf mound at the cages, I’m thinking about how the rest of the baseball season will look. The schedule will now forever be mismatched and unreliable.

Why is that?

Just a few days prior, Archbishop Riordan’s administration announced that a family member of a student had tested positive for the virus. We heard the news just before our 7 p.m. contest against Burlingame High School at Washington Park in Burlingame. The games under the lights are usually the ones that players, coaches, and fans look forward to.

When the news spread around the bleachers during the JV game, the consistent heartbeats turned rogue. Earlier in the day, a 30 percent chance of rain was expected to wash the game away. Now, a 110 percent chance of apprehension stood in the way.

As the sun went down, the atmosphere around the ballpark followed an identical trend. Something was strange about the situation and I vented to teammates what I was feeling.

“Something feels odd, something is going to happen,” I tell a couple of friends. “I’m getting a strange vibe right now.”

During our pregame stretches, one of the coaches approached me with news that sealed the deal to all of my worries.

“Hey, this isn’t looking good right now. Don’t tell anyone, keep warming up,” he said. “But it looks like they’re going to shut us down.”

As we started throwing on the side, I knew we weren’t getting the game in. I, along with everyone else, was disappointed. However, we quickly understood that the magnitude of our situation was extremely far from what Riordan’s basketball team was going through that evening. Before their playoff game against De La Salle, the game was unplugged and postponed for another time. When it was revealed later on that a student tested positive for the coronavirus, the basketball team’s entire season was snatched from them by league officials.

One of Riordan’s greatest athletic teams ever will never again have their day on the hardwood and it’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s a really good group of players that all mix well together, which resulted in an extremely fun team to cover. I don’t think we’ll see one like them again.

To make a long story short, we weren’t in the basketball team’s shoes, we didn’t have to be stranded on a boat, we didn’t have grandparents suffering to breathe. We didn’t have any of that, yet we were concerned about not playing baseball. Baseball, the child’s game. It was a classic reminder that sent a chill down everyone’s spine, giving them the realization that the right move had been made even though we didn’t think so.

Photo provided by Steven Rissotto ‘20.
Steven Rissotto ‘20 throws a pitch during his bullpen session.

All Riordan classes in the building, as well as activities, will be put on hold until at least April 7, per San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s shelter in place ordinance, followed by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide decree. Yes, that means no school, no newspaper, and no baseball. Could this be awesome for some people? I can understand the enthusiasm. However, I blatantly disagree. Outside of daily assignments, what will I do with myself in the upcoming weeks? After all, this is my senior year. It’s not supposed to be like this.

Stuff happens though. An old coach once told me that the 11th commandment is to “find a way.”  Now, I’m not sure if Moses came up with that, but it fits many situations in life that need conquering. If you love something, find a way to prove it.

So, a couple of varsity and junior varsity baseball players played the “do-it-yourself” game and took it into our own hands to make things work. We didn’t want our season wasted because of the coronavirus, so we weren’t going to let it happen. How did we do it? A little fewer coaches and a little less handshakes.

What started at Westborough Park in South San Francisco, ended with batting practice at the Pacifica Cages. Stops at In-N-Out Burger and Dick’s Sporting Goods were expected in-between, but the productivity level was off the charts elite.

So on the 30th and final pitch of my bullpen session, I fired a strike right around the knees to walk it off. My happy zone. Yeah, everything is going to be fine.

But that was before the stay at home ordinance. The events that have taken place after have turned out to be a little less adventurous and a little more mind-wrecking. I’ve struggled to work on my baseball skills since the shelter-in-place order went into effect. The fact that everything is a huge question mark scares me to death. The fact that I might not have a senior baseball season scares me to death. The fact that I might not have a regular graduation…

Scares. Me. To. Death.

But you know what? It’s not necessary for me. It’s about the country and rest of the world staying healthy and safe. At the end of the day, I might not be actively contributing to anything to the extent that I was before, but I’m helping to save lives by staying inside. I don’t know if I’ll get to play baseball for Archbishop Riordan ever again. I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to walk across the theater stage to receive my diploma in May, a tradition that has occurred for 70 years at Riordan.

I’ve come to terms with it. After all, life is 50 percent random. This time around, life just happened to throw me a curveball. I’m going to follow the rules and make the most of these rough times. After all, maybe I’ll save a life or two.

That’s what matters.