PORTSMOUTH — At first, the news was understandably jolting to Kyle Jenkins, and similarly stunning to Luke Lindamood.
However, with every dark or even ominous cloud there is indeed a silver lining — and Jenkins and Lindamood at least know that an unexpected but extra year of baseball is their respective futures.
While Wheelersburg’s Jenkins, a senior for Heidelberg University of the NCAA Division III, and Minford’s Lindamood —a freshman for West Virginia Tech of the NAIA —may have had their 2020 seasons get canceled due to the threat of the coronavirus, they are receiving an extra year of athletic eligibility, according to their governing bodies.
Jenkins’ case is especially noteworthy, since he is in fact one of 15 seniors for the Student Princes.
Lindamood is only a freshman, which gives him his four full years, as the Golden Bears competed in 23 games before the NAIA officially cancelled ALL spring sports on March 16.
Heidelberg had its spring sports plug pulled by the Ohio Athletic Conference four days earlier —which is one of the multiple leagues under the NCAA Division III umbrella.
However, Heidelberg and Jenkins — just the next day in fact — got great news when the Division III Administrative Committee approved emergency measures including “an additional semester and season of eligibility for all student-athletes participating in spring sports, the removal of a minimum threshold of sponsored spring sports, and the flexibility for schools to assist students with travel, lodging and meals as a result of campus displacement.”
Jenkins, a three-year letterman in baseball while at Wheelersburg and an all-Southeast District Division III second-team selection as a senior, is a six-foot, 190-pound infielder for Heidelberg —primarily playing third base.
Needless to say, but Jenkins is eternally grateful for another college season.
“We were given our eligibility back for next season, which is a huge blessing because my career could have ended for good. I will now have one more year left,” he said.
Optimism was high for the Student Princes this spring — coming off last year’s Division III College World Series appearance and with this season’s high ranking in a pair of preseason polls.
They opened the season on Feb. 22 with a split of two games at neutral-site Berea College, before going 1-2 the following weekend with one cancellation in Westfield, Ind.
Heidelberg then headed to the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., and went 5-2 with one cancellation over the course of the one-week event (March 6 thru March 13).
At the time, Jenkins — a Business Administration major with a concentration in Finance — was batting an even .300 with 50 at-bats, 15 hits including a double and a home run, five runs scored, seven runs batted in and five walks.
He had recorded a .941 fielding percentage —on the strength of 23 assists and nine putouts.
But then Jenkins got the discouraging word that the OAC had cancelled its entire spring sports season, initially robbing him of a senior year after only a dozen games.
“In an effort to protect the health and safety of all of our students and the communities we serve, the Presidents Council of the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) has voted to cancel all 2020 spring sports seasons, effective March 16 through the remainder of the academic year. This includes all athletically-related activities as defined by the NCAA. In addition, all meetings, practices and other off-season activities for other sports have also been canceled,” an OAC statement said. “While we recognize the profound disappointment that will be felt by the many student-athletes, parents, fans and coaches, the ongoing spread and uncertainty of COVID-19 have made the continuation of athletic activities untenable.”
Jenkins discussed his initial reaction.
“When I first heard about the cancellation, we were in Florida and heading back to the hotel from one of our games. I saw an announcement on Twitter, but just couldn’t believe it. Our coach had gathered us up in the parking lot and broke the news to us. All I could do was stand there in shock and hold back the tears while being comforted by underclassmen. I had soon gone up to my parents’ room and just collapsed,” he said. “It was truly the most heartbreaking news I have ever gotten.”
But, in that same OAC release, it read “the Conference will appeal to the NCAA to regain a season of eligibility and an extra semester to participate for all spring student-athletes who have participated thus far at OAC member institutions.”
The next day, that extra season was formally granted — as it works out quite well for Jenkins.
“Luckily, the Division III level has awarded us the eligibility back for spring sports. I certainly am grateful because of how I am returning to Heidelberg for grad school,” he said. “Unfortunately for some of my fellow senior teammates, this is not the case and I absolutely hate it for them. There is a good amount of us seniors coming back, though, to have this chance and I’m excited I get to spend another year with them. This is the ultimate second chance of second chances, and I am definitely not going to take it for granted.”
After hitting .286 with four RBI as a freshman, Jenkins —named academic all-OAC twice as a sophomore and junior — hit .310 over 19 games and drove in 10 runs while scoring 11 as a sophomore.
Last season, he appeared in all 50 of Heidelberg’s bouts, and batted .345 with 78 base-knocks, 14 two-baggers, three homers and 48 ribbys.
He was named all-OAC first team, and earned second-team (D3baseball.com) and third-team (ABCA) all-region honors.
Jenkins said it’s been an incredible first three years, and an “extremely hectic” last three weeks.
“I’ve had to move all my belongings back home from school. I’ve had to transition to online school, using new programs from classes. The workload has been reasonable, but the transition has been overwhelming at times,” he said. “I am crushed that our graduation has been cancelled for all the hard work I’ve put into the classroom the past four years, but I’ll be thankful to receive my diploma any way I can.”
Thus, with that diploma in hand — Jenkins just will have a bat in his hands next spring.
“As far as preparation for next season, right now I haven’t thought that far ahead. I don’t get to compete again for a while. Originally, since this was supposed to be my last season ever, I had nothing to plan for except finding jobs and opening a new chapter in my life before starting grad school,” he said. “But I do look forward to having this unique opportunity of playing baseball again, because I just hate how it ended this year.”
Lindamood, meanwhile, still has four full years of eligibility remaining.
An all-Ohio Division III Honorable Mention selection as a senior, the former Falcon and current Biology major started 16 games this season for the Golden Bears —at designated hitter, catcher and first base.
The Golden Bears began their season on Feb. 1 and ended it five weeks later, going 7-16 — as Lindamood had 39 at-bats, four runs scored, eight hits, two doubles, a home run, six RBI, five walks, four hit-by-pitch plate appearances and one sacrifice fly.
The NAIA officially cancelled its spring sports on March 16, but in that same announcement, organization President and CEO Jim Carr said that spring sports athletes will not be charged with a season of competition.
“In an effort to provide relief, any spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled full-time in 2020 will be awarded two additional semester terms of attendance or the equivalent,” he said.
Lindamood, like Jenkins, described the roller-coaster of emotions involved with the cancellations.
“When I heard that the season had gotten cancelled, I was very confused and shocked. But it is kind of a blessing in disguise. I choose to look at it as now I can work on the things I struggled with during the season,” he said. “I have been hitting and lifting almost every day preparing for next year and being the best I can be for my teammates and coaches.”
Indeed, the darkest of clouds have some silver linings.
For Jenkins and Lindamood, that’s an unexpected extra season playing college baseball.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved