Empty stands and playing fields filled PCC when the pandemic put a halt to all sports more than a year ago. Now, PCC is welcoming back its student-athletes for conditioning, and teams are finally seeing each other in person, some for the very first time.
“Some of these kids, this is the first time I’ve ever worked out with them, and they’ve been in my program since coming into 2020,” said head coach Monica Tantlinger. “To meet them, see them and get to work with them is great, and I’m looking forward to just continuing to build up from there.”
There is no denying that the current college-student life is not without its challenges. From zoom calls with a bad internet connection to emails getting lost in spam inboxes, each trial and tribulation has tested PCC students to the brink of calling it quits. Nothing different can be said about PCC and its student-athletes.
“Ever since we started doing zoom, I didn’t really like it,” said freshmen catcher Aniya Kessel. “It wasn’t hard, but it was different and now since we’re back, I’m excited.”
While the pandemic caused a loss in players either from graduation or moving on to full-time work, the softball team also gained some players. All around in-fielder, Montse Fukumoto, transferred from East Los Angeles College, trading in her Huskie cleats for Lancer spikes.
“I had another year of eligibility, so I decided to transfer,” said Fukumoto. “The environment’s different, it brings a whole different dynamic, and I personally enjoy it a lot.”
Middle infielder, Samantha Diaz, is the only veteran on the team who still can reminisce about what playing was like pre-COVID.
“It’s completely different,” said Diaz. “You know the whole lifestyle of going to class and going to practice is a lot of time management, but now you’re just strictly on classes, but I feel like you have to do more of the work because you’re on your own rather than a teacher face-to-face teaching you.”
“Then softball, on the other hand, it’s kind of, I don’t know, I miss it,” said Diaz. “It’s just playing softball makes you stay on track with school, and it makes you more accountable with everything.”
Diaz, like many students, had to put a pause on transferring to the school of her choice, but rather than seeing it as a setback, she took it as an opportunity to hone in on her skill set.
“I came back this year because the pandemic just ruined the whole transferring process last year,” said Diaz. “So, I just saw it as another chance to play softball, get better and be more prepared to transfer out.”
Though student-athletes are cleared for conditioning on campus, strict procedures are still in place for all sports teams. Guidelines include temperature checks at Robinson stadium and each student-athlete must bring their own water bottle and towel.
No one could imagine Kershaw throwing pitches for the Dodgers without a baseball, or Serena Williams practicing without her tennis racket. The equipment is a vital part of a team as much as the players are, but PCC softball will not be allowed to use any equipment for almost a month.
“I mean, we’re softball players so normally we would be playing catch hitting balls and obviously we’re not even at our field, we’re here at the stadium,” said Tallinger. “There is no equipment out here today, so we’re going one week of conditioning with no equipment. In three weeks, we’ll be allowed to have our softballs and play catch, but we still won’t be at our field.”
Tantlinger has been devoting her spare time to heavily recruiting via zoom calls and attending high school softball games when possible.
“Right now, we’re not allowed to bring kids on campus to show them the facilities, but I’ve been doing a lot of zoom visits with the recruits,” said Tantlinger. “I’m still able to go watch high school softball games and I already have two verbal’s from a kid at Gabrielino and one at Temple City. I’m hoping that number just continues to grow.”
Currently with a roster of seven, but nine needed to take the field, the team would face an immediate forfeit if games resumed today. Luckily, the season doesn’t begin until Jan. 2022 and Tantlinger is optimistic about the current core team.
“It’s bittersweet and it’s really sad because normally I have 20 kids out here and today I had seven,” said Tantlinger. “A lot of kids have not stayed in the class. Softball, specifically spring sports, we’ve had a whole year and a half cancelled, we had a our season last year canceled halfway through and then we had our season this year cancelled fully so I’m excited about the ones that we do have, but I have to be recruiting pretty hard this spring and this summer, to build our numbers back up.”
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