Pali Baseball Players Hold Informal Practices

Spencer Jung, Copy Editor

As the one-year mark of being in quarantine approaches, members of the Pali baseball program are determined to play, even if it means heading back to fields used by little leaguers.

Although COVID-19 transmission rates have reduced to the point where Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) elementary schools were given the green light to return on Feb. 15, high schools in the region remain closed. The California Interscholastic Federation LA City Section (CIF-LACS) cancelled baseball season last year and the prospects of starting this season are diminishing as every week passes.  

In mid-January, CIF-LACS commissioner Vicky Lagos announced that playoffs for all fall sports except Cross Country were to be canceled. The status of baseball among other spring sports will be updated in either late February or March.  

Instead of sitting home and waiting, Pali baseball players headed to home plate at Cheviot Hills Recreation Center, where team members meet twice a week for informal workouts, which parent volunteers now supervise. 

These practices were organized by players and their parents, and are considered unsanctioned school events. According to varsity head coach Mike Voelkel, the Pali coaching staff cannot participate and has no affiliation with these practices. They cannot be held at the Pali field because of LAUSD guidelines mandating all facilities in the region to be closed during the pandemic. 

Members of the varsity squad started practicing at the Palisades Recreation Center (PRC) on Nov. 16, but now practice at Cheviot Hills Recreation Center after the PRC closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Practices are held every Monday and Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and are completely voluntary. 

While warm-ups always consist of stretching, throwing and catching, each practice has a different focus. One day, players may work on fielding and another may be devoted to baserunning.

Because the workouts are being held in an open area that members of the public use on an ongoing basis, Pali baseball players are not taking batting practice. 

Senior Nathan Akiba said that the baseballs, screens and batting cages that players were able to use at the Pali field are not provided at recreation centers. Jake Herrera and Jake Moore both said that there is a clear difference between the well-maintained, manicured field at Pali and the heavily used fields at the recreation centers.

Players agree that maximizing use of their time together is challenging. 

“At Pali, we know what we are doing and when we are doing it every day,” senior Jabe Payne said. “At the rec center, we have a general idea like we’ll do fielding at the beginning, but then we just figure out what to do for the rest of the time we have.”

To help players stay in shape, Coach Voelkel had Zoom workouts during the fifth-period baseball class last semester.

Despite this, Moore admitted, “No matter how much you practice on your own, the pandemic has taken its toll on [players and coaches].” 

Although practices at parks during the pandemic are clearly not the same as full-team practices after school, players said they appreciate the ability to interact with one another. 

“Practicing with [other players] not only makes us better, but also strengthens our bonds with each other,” Akiba said.