The UVU baseball team had played 19 games to start the 2020 season with every single one taking place away from Orem.
The weekend of March 13 was supposed to be the time when the road-weary Wolverines finally got to come home — and what a homecoming it was supposed to be.
“We love playing baseball no matter what but we loved getting a chance to play on our brand-new, beautiful field,” UVU senior infielder Kade Poulsen said in a phone interview last week. “I knew they were pushing to have it ready for the weekend series against Boise State. In the back of our minds we were really excited to get to that new field and get to play on it.”
Wolverine head coach Eric Madsen said in a phone interview that the entire squad was thrilled to finally get to break in the 139,732 square-foot new turf baseball field that will now be known as doTERRA Field at UCCU Ballpark.
“We had to play Air Force over at BYU but they kept saying it would be done for the Boise State series,” Madsen said. “For the most part, we were planning on playing at home. I know our guys were looking forward to a chance to getting to play on that field.”
By now everyone knows what happened. The rapid evolution of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to limit its spread in the United States eventually resulted in the complete cancellation of the season.
“It was insane,” Poulsen said. “We thought we would be able to finish out the season. Then it was cut short and it was tough for me, being a senior with all the work I had put in for four years. It sucked to have it end but it was a bigger picture than just baseball. Our coaches were in really good communication, checking in on us and making sure we were OK. That helped the situation out a lot.”
It came at a time when it things were starting to come together for UVU.
“The season started out a little bit rough,” Poulsen said. “We played some pretty good competition but I feel like we were just starting to click. It was looking to be a good year and I think we were right on track to where we wanted to be. Obviously we would’ve liked to have won more games than we had to that point but I think our bats started going and we could’ve got on a roll.”
Individually, Poulsen had put together some impressive outings. He had hit .357 for the season and was coming off a 3-for-4 performance with three runs scored, a double and a walk in a 17-12 loss to Air Force in what ended up being the season finale on March 11.
“Kade was playing well for us and had hit well for most of the year,” Madsen said. “Having him being from around here, he was particularly excited about the field. I saw him a couple of him by my office looking out at the field and you could just see the excitement.”
Poulsen — who starred at Maple Mountain before joining the Wolverines — said he was feeling good at that point.
“I started figuring my swing out and started getting hot, thanks to my coaches,” Poulsen said. “It felt good to see all of the hard work we had put in to that point pay off.”
But circumstances beyond anyone’s control forced Poulsen and his teammates to make some sacrifices for a more important cause.
“We are with each other a lot and our team is a family,” Poulsen said. “I love every single guy on that team. When something like this happens, you know your family has your back. It’s good to have people like that in my life.”
The NCAA announced during that time, however, that athletes who competed in spring sports could get an extra year of eligibility and Poulsen said that made a big difference to him.
“When I heard that announcement come out, I was actually really excited,” Poulsen said. “It’s been a long four years but to be able to have another year is really exciting. This gives our team more experience. We have a good core of older guys while also having a lot of younger guys. I think it is going to help us out that we are going to get that main core back and then we’ll have the experience from the games this year. I’m excited because it is another year of a game I love and one I’ve loved as a kid.”
Madsen said that some of the seniors on the UVU baseball team already had plans in place for the summer and had to start reevaluating those when it was announced they could get another year.
“I think the seniors were upset they would never get to play,” Madsen said. “But it also added some confusion. We have kids who have graduated and are looking at starting jobs. Now they are trying to figure out whether coming out is a good idea. Some of them were relieved but some of them it added to the confusion.”
Poulsen had some discussions with his fellow seniors about what they were going to do.
“They were trying to play some summer ball and try and get drafted,” he said. “I feel like every Division I baseball player has the dream of getting drafted. That’s what I wanted to do. Others had jobs or graduation plans and for those to get halted, it’s a tough situation for them because they have to decide if they want to come back or if it is time to move on. I know it’s been tough for a few of the guys.”
Madsen is confident that the players will turn their attention to finishing out the academic year, maybe take some break time but then be ready to get going again when baseball returns.
“Everybody is trying to get through this in their own way,” Madsen said. “You just try and make sense of it all. This is uncharted territory for everybody.”
Poulsen said it took some time and there are still a lot of unknowns but he feels like he’s come to grips with where things are at.
“I think I’m at peace with things and I know the direction I’m going to go,” Poulsen said.