UW-Stout Athletes amid COVID-19

Samuel Nemec

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread across the globe and brought the world to a halt. The virus has also rocked the sports world by causing leagues to postpone seasons and even cancel postseason tournaments. It is a time that’s forced athletes, and those in charge, to dive deep into their creativity to stay fit and provide entertainment for their fans. Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers shared a video of him hitting baseballs off a tee inside his living room, NASCAR has run races virtually through their video game with each driver playing as themselves and the NBA just started a video game tournament where a representative from each of the 30 teams participates in an NBA 2K tournament that has been televised on ESPN. 

How have University of Wisconsin-Stout’s athletes been handling their time with no sports?

“I’ve been working out at home and getting outside with my brother to play catch or hit off a tee,” Kayli Pfeffer, a freshman on the softball team, tells us. “Our team is staying connected and trying to stay positive through this whole thing.”

Kayli Pfeffer / UW-Stout Sports Information Photo

Kevin Ruechel, a junior thrower for track and field, shared, “my course work takes up a decent amount of time and when I’m not working on that, I’m doing at home workouts with what I have in order to stay in shape for next year.”

For Joseph Halling, senior baseball player, it’s been about being productive. “I have been trying to stay as busy as possible. Trying to feel normal, I’ve been trying to set a routine each day and a list of things to accomplish,” he said. He’s also found time to enjoy things he hadn’t had time for in the past. “I haven’t been able to turkey hunt in years due to baseball, so I’m excited to try that out,” Halling said.

How did these collegiate athletes react when they received the daunting news of their season being canceled?

“My initial thought when I heard about the season being cut almost felt unreal, and I thought it wasn’t true at first,” senior baseball player Kyle Hamilton explained. “I didn’t want to think it was true because of all the hard work we had put in for our season to play.”

“My initial reaction to this whole thing was absolute shock and confusion. It was so upsetting to me to watch the seniors realize that their college softball careers were over,” Pfeffer said.

“I was devastated when I learned that our season was over. The way the message was delivered made it that much worse,” Halling revealed. “Our Florida trip has already been canceled, and we found out our season was done over email. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to all of our coaches and teammates in person.”

Joseph Halling / UW – Stout Sports Information Photo

Ruechel shared much of the same sentiment, “it was heartbreaking. All the work we put in to be able to compete at a high level this year seemed like it was all for nothing.”

In a time where things are gloomy and much of the media we see is negative, we asked these athletes to try to find a positive in this uncertain time.

“One positive thing that I can find is it bringing my family closer together,” Halling said. “I haven’t lived at home for a few years, so this has given me the opportunity to grow closer to my parents.”

For Pfeffer, it’s the little things, “being back home in my own bed and binge-watching Netflix!”

“Knowing that we didn’t go through this alone. Thousands of athletes are going all the way up to the D1 level and have to experience the same thing,” Ruechel explained. “In the grand scheme of things, this is a small price to pay in order to maintain the safety of our family and friends.”

Kevin Ruechel / UW – Stout Sports Information Photo

Hamilton views this as a positive opportunity to focus more on his internship and academics but also wanted to share one last message. “I would like to personally thank the whole Stout community as a whole for it is the best 4 years of my life and the many memories I now have to carry for the rest of my life, on and off the field. I would also like to thank all of my coaches, professors, and teammates for the commitment they have put in for us to succeed in our future endeavors.”

A big thank you to all the athletes of Stout from us at the Stoutonia, and especially to the seniors. Your time and commitment to the university are heavily appreciated, and we wish you the best moving forward.