Baseball team aims to defend conference title

Photo courtesy FAMU Athletics

With the season quickly approaching the FAMU baseball team is preparing to finally hit the field. 

After an early end to the 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Rattlers have had to make some adjustments for their upcoming schedule.

Since September the team has had to add COVID testing to its weekly practice schedule. The NCAA has mandated this in order to allow athletes to compete this  spring. With cases still surging, the season may be impacted by the Biden administration’s new protocols.

“We’ve had a lot of time for one because our season was cut short in March last year,” head coach Jamie Shouppe said.

“We had a good fall. Our fall season was not cut short; we waited a little longer to begin the fall this year. We waited longer in the fall because we wanted to develop the best practice plan.”

During the fall, the team had about nine players out at one time. Three players actually had COVID and the other six had contact tracings. 

While staying physically in shape, the team had to also remain mentally strong. 

Baseball coach Jamie Shouppe. Photo courtesy FAMU athletics

According to the NCAA’s Student-Athlete COVID-19 Well-being Study, a majority of participants reported experiencing high rates of mental distress since the outset of the pandemic. Over a third reported experiencing sleep difficulties, more than a quarter reported feeling sadness and a sense of loss, and 1 in 12 reported feeling so depressed it has been difficult to function “constantly” or “most every day.”

“During this pandemic it has been challenging with having our season canceled in March. I can understand how student athletes feel disenchanted about the state of COVID,” said Jeremiah McCollum, a pitcher for the Rattlers. “Personally, I’m excited to get back on campus and on to the field.” 

When the 2020 season was canceled  FAMU was still considered the reigning MEAC champions. The expectations are still the same going into the 2021 season. If the expectations are met, this will be the Rattlers’ third appearance in the MEAC championship game under Shouppe. 

“Just based on the Rattlers being the last champions of the conference, with key players returning and overall talent throughout the roster, I see the Rattlers competing well,” said Joshua Robinson, a FAMU athletics intern. “They have a great bullpen. They don’t have to give up too much talent when rotating their staff. Even with the tough competition like Florida and Stetson, I believe that the Rattlers will have a steady stride throughout the season.”

FAMU will open its season against  Stetson in DeLand on Feb. 19.