UF Softball Clubhouse Chatter: Gators Return to Practice After 173 Days
Courtesy of University Athletic Association
No. 7 Florida defeated No. 12 Florida State, 5-2, Wednesday, March 11, in front of 1,894 fans at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
That was the last time the Gators would take the field to compete as a team for the 2020 season. Florida finished with a 23-4 record, was undefeated in Southeastern Conference play, and you could feel that they were on the verge of having another special year.
“I think we had a really special team and we were surprising a lot of people by how well we were playing at that point.” Senior outfielder Jaimie Hoover said.
But instead of having the opportunity of playing into June and finishing the year at the Women’s College World Series, like the Gators have been accustomed to doing in 10 out of the previous 12 years, the 2020 season abruptly concluded after just 27 games due to the outbreak of a new type of coronavirus that still has us in the throes of a global pandemic.
So when the team returned August 31 for their first day of individual practices, it marked 173 days since the 2020 season ended. That’s just 10 days short of half a year without playing a game or practicing for the Gators.
Let’s be clear. Half a year with no games or practices is a very, very long time.
“The time away makes you appreciate what you have.” Head Coach Tim Walton said. “It almost felt like a new job and the start of something new, because we hadn’t been together in such a long time. I think everyone that was out there appreciated it so much.”
With that much time away, the smallest of things about returning created a buzz amongst the players.
“When we finally got the first practice schedule, we all started texting each other,” Senior Hannah Adams said. “That’s when we realized we were actually going to get to start practicing again and be back together. We’re just so thankful to be back.”
That energy carried over into the first day of individuals and throughout the first two weeks. It also brought back a sense of normalcy, as you could hear the sounds of leather gloves popping, bats cracking, and coach Walton telling jokes while hitting balls to players during defensive drills.
“We were all just really excited to be back and I don’t think that level has gone down since we’ve started.” Senior Natalie Lugo said.
Hoover echoed Lugo’s sentiments about being excited for being able to practice again and added that there’s a new-found appreciation for the game.
“I can’t take softball for granted anymore,” Hoover said. “I just want to go hard every single day now, because we don’t know when our last day is going to be.”
The Gators are currently entering their third week of individual practices and are still as excited as they were during that first day back.
They’re making the most of the opportunity to be back training for 2021 and not taking any moment for granted.