CHICO, Calif. - After a year of not being able to practice, baseball player for Chico State Willie LaJoie could hardly contain his excitement when stepping onto the field Tuesday.
“The best way to put it is to imagine missing an entire Christmas one year, and then that second Christmas comes, and it just times two,” said a baseball player for Chico State, Willie LaJoie.
LaJoie has been playing on the baseball team at Chico State for almost two years.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, honestly,” said LaJoie. “I’ve said that from the start.”
When the pandemic first hit, LaJoie could not stand the thought of not doing what he loves most with the people he calls family.
“We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what to think,” said LaJoie. “We didn’t really believe it at first. As time started to go on and it started becoming a reality and started hitting that I am not going to be able to play with these guys ever again.”
But getting back on the field is like hitting a walk-off home run.
“Rolled right into practice just like it was when everything stopped,” LaJoie. “It was euphoric.”
LaJoie is hoping in a couple of months; the Nettleton stadium will have people in every seat.
“Hopefully, we will have a big turnout,” said LaJoie .”Hopefully, we see a couple of fans, and hopefully, I see my friends up in the stands and give them a little wave.”
The baseball team is practicing safety protocols like wearing masks at all times, practicing social distancing, disinfecting all balls after practice, and every player using a different bat.
Sports teams at chico state are only allowed to practice in small groups that they call pods. They are allowed two 90-minute sport skill instruction sessions per week. No games are allowed, and of course, all athletes and coaches are required to wear masks, participate in symptom tracking and surveillance testing.