A batter has .43 seconds to determine whether a 95 mph fastball traveling 60 feet, 6 inches to home plate is a ball or a strike.
And yet, a split second in such circumstances seems more than adequate compared to the time college athletes and coaches had to comprehend what transpired between Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon:
First, they were told games would not be played in front of fans.
Then, they were informed their seasons were suspended.
And finally, that their seasons were canceled completely.
“In less than 24 hours, this thing went absolutely turbo-charged, times 10,” San Diego State baseball coach Mark Martinez said. “There were basketball games being played last night — last night — in conference tournaments, and now …”
The NCAA has canceled all winter and spring championships.
For baseball, that means the College World Series won’t be played. Season over.
“We have to wait for the process to kind of work its course,” Martinez said. “First and foremost, we have to worry about the kids, making sure they’re safe, and the families.”
The Aztecs were scheduled to host New Mexico State for a three-game weekend series beginning Friday evening. Word that play was suspended arrived before the Aggies boarded a plane for San Diego.
SDSU (10-6) was picked to win the Mountain West this season and the Aztecs were to host the conference tournament.
“The first thing we talk about all the time is focus on what you can control,” Martinez said. “This is something we cannot control, so we have to deal with it in that regard.
“My heart still hurts. It’s heartbreaking.”
USD’s baseball team was on a bus to the airport Thursday morning for a flight to Portland, where the Toreros (12-4) were to open play this weekend in the West Coast Conference.
The team’s bus was literally turning into the terminal when it was pulled off the road, a text message to head coach Rich Hill instructing the Toreros to return to campus.
At that moment, they knew something was up, they just didn’t know what.
They would soon enough.
All over the country, conferences were suspending play for their spring sports to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The ink was barely dry on those announcements when they were replaced with releases canceling seasons completely.
SDSU and the Mountain West conference indefinitely suspended all spring sports on Thursday morning, just 15 hours after the university had said games would continue but the general public would be barred.
And, in fact, by Thursday afternoon the school and the conference canceled the spring sports season.
“Those teams currently on the road competing may complete those events and then return to campus,” a Mountain West statement said. “Those teams that have not yet departed shall suspend travel immediately.”
SDSU also canceled all team activities through the weekend, including spring football workouts.
The Aztecs were in the midst of spring football, having completed six of a scheduled 15 practices. They were scheduled to practice Thursday and Saturday, but practices have been canceled through the weekend. According to a school spokesman, the situation will be reevaluated on Monday.
As for the annual Spring Game, which was scheduled for March 21 on the SDSU football practice field, it is considered game competition and is currently suspended. Per a statement released by the school on Wednesday night, the general public was not going to be permitted at the event.
The WCC, which includes USD, and the California Collegiate Athletics Association, which includes UC San Diego and Cal State San Marcos, issued statements later in the day that their spring seasons were canceled as well.
The decision by SDSU and the Mountain West comes amid a spiraling atmosphere of sports cancellations or postponements. The NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer all suspended games. Conference basketball tournaments quickly followed suit, after first saying no spectators would be allowed; at one, the Big East, a game was stopped at halftime.
Early Thursday afternoon, the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championships. That includes the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., where several SDSU women’s athletes had arrived ready to compete.
The tipping point appeared to come Wednesday night, when the NBA announced it was suspending all games after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher was asked Wednesday about the possibility of an NCAA player contracting the virus and entire teams having to be quarantined.
“That would be a heck of a situation,” Dutcher said. “Who knows what will happen? Those are all great questions. I think they’re dealing with them all around the country in every business. And whether it’s the NBA or NHL or professional baseball that’s starting or NCAA basketball, I think they’re going to have to deal with those questions everywhere.”
SDSU’s softball team was to open Mountain West play with a three-game home series against Colorado State beginning Friday. That, too, is now out the window.
The USD softball team was scheduled to play at the Loyola Marymount Tournament on Thursday afternoon against UC Santa Barbara before the event was canceled.
Point Loma Nazarene was the one school still planning to play after the others shut their sports down.
Late Thursday, the Sea Lions changed their stance, although they haven’t canceled the season.
“After further discussions with the PacWest Conference,” a school statement said, “Point Loma Nazarene University has decided to suspend all athletic competitions at least through the end of March, effective immediately.”
At the moment, there are plenty of questions but few answers for what is to come.
Could spring seasons somehow be saved? Can athletes redshirt? Can those in the dorms stay there, or must they go home?
And that’s just for starters.
“Everybody wants to know, What’s going to happen? What’s going on?’ ” Martinez said. “This just happened … Slow down. Let’s deal with this main problem first, then once we get past this we’ll figure it out.
“I think the decision-makers are going to do right by the student-athletes. We’ve just got to trust in that.”