Editor's Note: TAPinto Berkeley Heights will feature each of the 11 Gov. Livingston senior baseball players in a spotlight series to be published in random order starting Friday, May 8.
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- Three days after they learned that there would be no 2020 high school baseball season for them to play, virtually every Gov. Livingston player participated in a Zoom meeting hosted by head coach Chris Roof Thursday afternoon.
Roof and all his assistant coaches held court, introducing a special guest along the way, in the wake of Monday's ruling by the NJSIAA to cancel the spring sports season in conjunction with Gov. Phil Murphy's edict to keep all state schools closed through June.
"I think we all knew it was coming, but when it hits you right in your gut that it’s over then it really hurts," Roof said after Monday's announcement. "My heart breaks for my 11 seniors. Luckily we have five going on to play in college, but six kids will never play the game they love again.
"At the end of the day though, with people losing loved ones, it puts life in perspective for all of us. Unfortunately our senior players are learning a tough lesson in life that things you work for your entire life can quickly be taken away. I hope when people can get back on the playing fields that they’ll always give it their all because, again, it can be taken away in a heartbeat."
Roof had Miami Marlins scout and Bernardsville, NJ native James Vilade on the Zoom meeting to offer tips to players who are hoping to be recruited to play in college, as well as to promote his "Keeper Of The Game" organization that serves special needs kids.
"Keeper Of The Game is a way to bridge the gap between us and the special needs community," said Vilade, whose son, Ryan, is a player in the Colorado Rockies system. "The mission of Keeper Of The Game is to provide athletes with disabilities and special needs unique baseball experiences that foster the growth and their love of baseball. Keeper Of The Game promotes programs which allow these athletes to play, watch and experience baseball at a very personal level. All done with a focus on advancing servant leadership.”
Vilade also has a free YouTube channel, Vilade Baseball Academy, which is filled with instructional content for players of all ages, including drills, fundamental tips and instruction on batting, pitching, fielding and baserunning.
Roof told his players, "I hope if you can you are working every day to get better."
The GL coach, who runs the HSDL High School Developmental League that involves teams from all over northern New Jersey, has a grim outlook on the possibility of even playing in the summer as things stand currently.
"We have to follow the CDC guidelines about playing," Roof said. "I hope we can play, but I don't see how it will be possible for us to be playing. If we're allowed by August we'll do it."
Roof, who said he would have an official announcement about the status of the league early next month, was heartened by the number of Highlander players who participated in the Zoom session.
"The number of kids on here means a lot to me," Roof said.