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High school sports executive, baseball coach discuss present, future changes due to COVID-19

From high school to professional sports, teams are staying occupied while sports and social gatherings are on pause.

The sports world came to a halt because of the coronavirus. #OpeningDayAtHome is trending on social media as Major League Baseball teams broadcast old games.

There’s uncertainty of when the next local and national sporting events will be played. One local high school coach is keeping his players positive during this holding pattern.

The brakes were put on the Ridgeview High School's baseball team, who were 5-3 to start the year.

“We were halfway to Lake City and then had to come back to Ridgeview,” John Sgromolo, athletic director and head baseball coach at Ridgeview High School said.

Sgromolo is now using Twitter to celebrate the seven seniors whose last season is on hold. Tweets include a player’s favorite rival, professional baseball player and other facts.

“We want to keep them excited and make sure they [the seniors] know they’re important to us and we want them back on the field,” Sgromolo said.

Off the field—athletes and teams at all levels are doing different things like community service and helping those directly impacted by COVID-19.

Local pro teams like the Jacksonville Icemen and Jumbo Shrimp are asking fans to support their local sponsors.

Alan Verlander, CEO of Airstream Ventures, a sports marketing company in Jacksonville says the various changes, from postponed seasons to operating outside the office, will have a trickle-down effect in the present and future.

“I think that’s something we’ll have to focus on as a sports world, [that] is doing something for those fans that will allow them to attend our games but may not have the financial capacity they once had,” Verlander said.

He said the sports and event industries postponing events can also mean a tough time attracting future events.

“Not having the sports tourism really hurts because cents that go into the bed tax will go into the tourist development council and it builds them up to bring more events,” Verlander said.

But no matter the level of competition, people like Sgromolo feel this is bigger than sports.

He says it’s important to take a pause so teams can play once again.

“The faster we follow directions, the faster we go back to normal," Sgromolo said.“This is an uncertain time, but we still have opportunity, we wake up every day, it’s a beautiful day and we’re blessed to not be in too dire straits right now.'

The FHSAA says in response to Governor DeSantis’ closure of Florida schools through April 15, they have postponed all scheduled FHSAA meetings, conferences and athletic events until further notice.

Sgromolo wants his seniors to stay motivated during this period.

“My message is this: keep getting better," he said. "Don’t let being at home affect you, don’t let the hype get in the way of your goals and that’s something I hope everyone is doing and that is to continue getting better on a daily basis."