On Wednesday afternoon, the University of Michigan canceled in-person classes until April 21. University President Mark Schlissel’s announcement, which ushered in the era of online class in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, contained a mandate canceling all University activities which would convene more than 100 people. For sporting events, an even more aggressive decree now limits attendance to family members and the press.
This comes at an inopportune time for the Michigan baseball team, which will see its home-field advantage curtailed as it enters its first home series this weekend against Canisius.
But by how much?
“As you guys know, (Ray Fisher Stadium) is always packed,” redshirt freshman left-hander Steven Hajjar said with a sarcastic laugh. Baseball is the only big four sport at Michigan which routinely suffers from poorly attended games.
But the buzz surrounding the program is at a high following the Wolverines’ national runner-up performance in the 2019 College World Series, meaning Michigan will be deprived of what would likely have been the the largest fan turnout in recent history. According to Hajjar, though, fans are not a necessity to creating wins.
“However it plays out, it’ll play out,” he said. “I think our team’s great at creating our own energy, so hopefully it’ll be okay.”
It’s easy to tell that the teammates are each other’s biggest fans. Last season, in these early-season games where the cold makes Ray Fisher's even more sparse, theirs were the only cheers you could hear.
Teammates clearly have each other’s backs, so the focus can be on stepping between the lines this weekend, not on the lack of fans.
“I just hope we don’t get the Ivy League treatment,” Hajjar said, referencing the fact that the Ivy League conference canceled its postseason tournaments for men's and women's basketball. “That’d be the worst situation possible.”
Michigan coach Erik Bakich was on a similar wavelength.
“I’m just trying to figure out how to hit,” he said. “I think the University will come out with something. That is above any coach’s pay grade. I just want to make sure our players are safe.”