Regional Sports Leaders Reflect Upon Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis

Posted In: Sports, , Great Lakes Loons,   From Issue 894   By: Jason Marcoux

01st April, 2020     0

The Novel Coronavirus began to spread throughout the Wuhan province of China near the end of December in 2019 then moved out of China in early February and into Europe and America, eventually hitting the state of Michigan around the second week of March, before sweeping throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region like a runaway freight train which managed to turn everyone's lives on end, especially those lives of local athletes.

Consequently, Review Magazine decided to reach out to area sports leaders to better understand the impact this Pandemic is having on our high school and semi pro athletic teams.

Heritage High School hockey coach JJ Bamberger has good reason to be upset with the coronavirus after back-to-back seasons leading Heritage teams to the Michigan High School Athletic Association boys division-I ice hockey finals, where the Hawks were runners up the past two years with his team making another trip back to the final-four for the third consecutive year, before the season was put on hold.

However, the recently named MHSAA division-I Coach of the Year - who also coaches his son’s youth travel hockey team - managed to put things into perspective; like good coaches always do.

“Fortunately, the company I work for is on the essential list so I'm continuing to work, Bamberger said. “As far as everything else, It's showed (me) what life would be like not coaching or being a parent of a kid in sports. Honestly, it's given me time to slow down, which I think a lot of us needed. Unfortunately, it took something this catastrophic for it to happen.”

His message to everyone.

“I think we need to stay inside and self-isolate,” Bamberger added. “I don't think people are taking it serious enough. I see kids in groups of four in a car together driving around. If everyone does their own part and does what they are told, hopefully this is over soon!”

Great Lakes Loons President and GM Brad Tammen has plenty of experience dealing with disasters as a baseball executive. He was director of sales and marketing for the Oklahoma RedHawks (former triple A affiliate of the Texas Rangers) when the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed back in 1995, remaining with the RedHawks four years later during the 1999 Oklahoma f5 tornado outbreak, a disaster which had some of the highest ever recorded wind speeds globally.

Tammen moved out to Salt Lake City, UT to become assistant GM of the Salt Lake City Bees (triple A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels) during the attacks of September 11, 2001, before becoming vice president and GM of the Nashville Sounds (former triple A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers) where he led the Sounds through Nashville's 2010 famous five-hundred year flood.

For Tammen, the difference in the Coronavirus compared to those other disasters is the fear of the unknown.  “This situation is unique because it's much more challenging and we still don't know where the end is,” Tammen admitted. “We don't know where this pandemic is headed, so we just have to take it one day at a time and continue to make the best decisions going forward.”

He had a message for his fellow businesses in the community as well.

“I highly encourage other businesses to donate any supplies that the medical professionals might need,” added Tammen. “We went back and looked into our resources and realized we had gloves and we had disinfectant that we use day in and day out when we clean our ballpark. Thousands of disposable gloves and gallons of disinfectant, which is not doing us any good sitting in a back storage room waiting for the season to open.” 

“We can always get more of those supplies, so we donated 13,000 rubber gloves and I don't know how many gallons of disinfectant to hopefully help other people in need right now, so I would encourage any other businesses who can dive into their own supplies to do so and try to help out those in need.”

Tammen made a distinction between his job working in baseball and what the health care professionals are sacrificing in order to help in this crisis.

“I'd like to commend the people on the front lines,” he concluded. “I'm hearing more and more stories everyday about what they're doing to save lives. We're in sports, in entertainment, we aren't even close to matching what they're doing to control this thing. Most of us don't see and probably wouldn't want to see what they're having to go through.”

Nouvel Catholic Central High School athletic director Brian Hart also talked about some of the changes he and his family at home, as well as his extended Nouvel family are having to deal with during these hard times.

“There are big changes in an environment such as the one in which we are currently living, good and bad,” Hart said. “Personally, my wife and I have young children, so in a way, this is great quality time. Our children's school has been conducting online classes since the Governors stay-at-home mandate began. We are working on homework every day and spending quality time outside together.”

“The downside to this pandemic, personally, is having to stay away from family outside of our home,” added Hart. “We are keeping our distance from our older relatives because we don't want to unknowingly spread the virus. It's hard because we often interact with our family and friends. We live social lives. I miss being inside the school building every day, being around our students and staff.”

“The Nouvel community is a big part of my life. Remaining home is no fun at all, but it's for the safety of ourselves and others. It's a great example to our students about the meaning of the word community. We have to take care of each other, especially during these unprecedented times.”

The Saginaw Spirit were on the brink of a possible memorial cup run when their season was cut short because of the coronavirus, making life very hard for Spirit director of communications Joey Battaino, whose job is working in sports, however, like many other people in the world, sports are also his passion and something he looks forward to when not working as well. 

"I think first and foremost the virus has affected how we approach our day to day lives," Battaino said. "The way it has affected me the most is obviously the cancellation of the season and adjusting to life without sports. Sports is an escape for many people and finding ways to fill that void amidst this much uncertainty has been a huge challenge."

Battaino concluded with a message for the community to look out for one another.

"We can support one another by protecting each other," Battaino added. "Following the rules put in place by the CDC, practicing social distancing and staying home." 




Please login to comment



Current Issue


Don't have an account?