Having been born in the mid-1980s, the last nationwide pandemic pre-dates me by almost 70 years.
The civil rights movement was two decades before I was born. Even when riots erupted in Los Angeles over the arrest and beating of Rodney King, I was only eight years old and have only a vague recollection of my parents watching news coverage on television. The shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado happened when I was a freshman in high school, and Sept. 11, 2001, was at the beginning of my senior year.
All of those were historic events, for sure. But nothing could have prepared my generation — or, really any generation — for what has unfolded over the first five months of this year. Between COVID-19 and the demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death, 2020 is going to be remembered as a year that forever altered world history, one way or another.
It is a lot to process for anyone, even for me. I have been in the newspaper business for 14 years as a professional and have never experienced something on this scale before. Isolated incidents? Sure. I lived and worked in the Southern California community where eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was murdered in 2013 and worked alongside those who covered the story up close. Before that, I moved to a New Mexico city reeling from the death of a Native American man after an altercation with law enforcement in a Walmart parking lot.
If anything, I should be a little bit jaded, but like they have for everyone else, these past few months have hit me hard. I’ve had to change my life in ways I never imagined possible. I’ve seen things in the news I never thought I would see in my lifetime. My emotions run the gamut from sad to frustrated to furious to resigned. While I have a fair amount of life experience, I am at a loss to make sense of what this year has brought so far.
I can only imagine how the younger generation feels.
Tooele football coach Dru Jones shared the same concern as his players were allowed to resume formal workouts on Monday. For the past two-plus months, nothing has been normal. Kids were forced out of school and the daily routine it provides — not just academically, but socially. He joked about how his players weren’t complaining as much about practicing in 90-degree heat as they had previously, but there’s a big element of seriousness there. We all need some sort of structure in our lives, and in the case of high-school kids, school and extra-curricular activities provide a lot of that.
It isn’t just the kids, either. I was chatting with Tooele baseball coach Nolan Stouder as I copied his lineup card before Wednesday’s American Legion game, and he mentioned the size of the crowd that had showed up to Monday’s contest — noting the amount of money that the concession stand had taken in.
I’ve been covering summer baseball for years. While it is fun to watch, and from my standpoint, it’s a great way to get to know the kids in a more relaxed environment, it isn’t usually the most popular event among spectators. If there are a dozen friends and family members in the bleachers, it’s a pretty good crowd under normal circumstances.
As I approached Dow James Memorial Park on Wednesday evening, I was awestruck at how many cars were in the parking lot. Two days earlier, there was a lengthy wait to turn from state Route 36 onto Bates Canyon Road to reach Stansbury High’s baseball field.
But in the summer of 2020, after everyone has been cooped up at home for the past couple months, people are desperate for any hint of normalcy they can find. And for a few hours, a baseball game is the perfect panacea. The players are back with their friends, playing the game they love and just generally enjoying being kids. The adults get to watch our local youth, while enjoying the time-honored tradition of a hot dog and a soda under the setting sun. And while health remains a concern, life almost feels normal.
I know I won’t ever take these moments for granted again.
Darren Vaughan is the sports editor for the Transcript Bulletin. Email him at email@example.com.