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The coronavirus and the crisis it has created will take a heavy toll on the local sports scene, as elsewhere.
The impact begins with the cancellation of the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships (see the story on this page) that were to be held Friday-Saturday at the Albuquerque Convention Center. It continues with the popular New Mexico United soccer team.
But just where the impact ends is to be determined.
UNM: The University of New Mexico baseball team went from upbeat to heartbroken in a matter of hours Thursday. After arriving in Austin, Texas, for a scheduled three-game series against the nationally ranked Longhorns, the Lobos found out that not only was the series canceled, so was the rest of their season.
The NCAA announced Thursday it was canceling championships for all spring sports. Later in the afternoon, the Mountain West Conference announced that all remaining spring sports competitions were being canceled for its member schools.
The news was crushing for UNM’s baseball team, which was 14-4 this season and riding a six-game winning streak.
“I’ve got kids crying in the lobby right now,” Lobos coach Ray Birmingham said. “I’ve talked to some other Mountain West coaches this afternoon and we don’t know what we’re going to do. This is crushing for the kids.”
Birmingham called the decisions to cancel spring sports and NCAA championships “knee-jerk reactions.” Some championship tournaments were not scheduled to begin until late May or early June.
“This virus is serious, I get that,” Birmingham said. “But it feels like we didn’t take it serious enough early and now everyone’s overreacting. That’s how I feel.”
Birmingham said his team will return to Albuquerque on Friday and will attempt to schedule some practices later this spring to allow players to perform for professional scouts.
Also to be impacted are the sports of golf, tennis, softball and outdoor track and field.
A statement from the league later Thursday, in announcing the cancellations, stated: “The MW Board has also established a moratorium on all on-campus and off-campus in-person recruiting activities for the foreseeable future.”
HIGH SCHOOLS: Albuquerque Public Schools announced Thursday the cancellation of “all events and activities including sports, performances, competitions, and field trips” during the coronavirus public health emergency.
The metro baseball championships were to begin Monday. The metro softball championships on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the New Mexico Activities Association has announced a Friday emergency board meeting to discuss what actions to take going forward for the balance of the school year in the wake of the emergency. Meanwhile, the NMAA is trying to press on and finish its basketball tournament, which is scheduled to resume Friday and finish Saturday.
ISOTOPES: The suspension of the Major League Baseball activities naturally will impact Minor League baseball as well.
The club won’t play its April 14 Pacific Coast League home opener as scheduled and issued this statement:
“The Albuquerque Isotopes fully support Minor League Baseball’s decision to delay the start of the 2020 season. Our Opening Night was originally scheduled for April 14, but our opening will now be delayed for an undetermined amount of time. With the ever-evolving situation around COVID-19, the prudent and socially responsible thing to do is to proceed with an abundance of caution. Furthermore, we appreciate the direction that the City and State have taken relative to large events and are in full support of every effort being taken to protect the public.
“The health and safety of our fans, staff, players, and everyone who frequents the ballpark is of upmost priority and importance.
“We will keep everyone updated with plans for our 2020 season once those decisions have been made. For the time being, fans are encouraged to hold onto their tickets. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”
GLADIATORS FOOTBALL: The Indoor Football League also has suspended operations, with Duke City’s season-opening game Thursday night in Frisco, Texas, postponed. The team had arrived in Frisco on Wednesday.
The Gladiators’ first two home games, scheduled for April 4 and 11 at Tingley Coliseum, also have been postponed. The team said the games will be rescheduled at a later date and that tickets for the postponed games will be honored then.
Said IFL commissioner Todd Tryon on goIFL.com, the league website: “This is an unprecedented situation that we are taking very seriously. We are monitoring this on a constant basis and are working with the local municipalities and arenas in all of our markets.
“Our goal is to resume play as soon as possible. The health of our players, coaches, staff, fans, and sponsors is of utmost importance to our teams and to the league, and we will not compromise on those values.”
BANQUET: The New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame announced it is postponing its induction banquet, scheduled for April 5 at the Albuquerque Convention Center, as well as its accompanying golf tournament scheduled for the previous day at Twin Warriors Golf Club.
Hall of Fame past president Marty Saiz said the hope is to reschedule both events for late April or early May.
COMBAT SPORTS: Three of Albuquerque’s most popular MMA gyms have no plans to shut down but are encouraging common-sense measures – washing hands, avoiding unnecessary contact, etc. Above all, said FIT-NHB’s Arlene Sanchez Vaughn, Luttrell-Yee’s Ray Yee and Jackson-Wink general manager Michael Lyubimov, athletes are urged to stay home if they’re feeling ill.
Extra efforts, all three said, are being made to keep their facilities clean. FIT-NHB’s mats and lockers, Sanchez Vaughn said, are bleached after each day’s activities as a matter of course.
⋄ A boxing card scheduled for March 28 at the Convention Center’s Kiva Auditorium has been postponed until May 9, co-promoter Jordan Perez announced.
All tickets already purchased will be honored, Perez said.
INDOOR SOCCER: The Major Arena Soccer League has opted to end its season immediately, the New Mexico Runners said in a statement late Thursday. “I’m incredibly proud of our boys and their hard work this season. We can’t wait for season 3 with you cheering us on,” said team owner and president Andres Trujillo. The third season of Runners indoor soccer, which has been played at the Santa Ana Star Center, begins in December.