Both Brandon Noble and Patrick Labiendo were supposed to be in the middle of their inaugural seasons in charge of their respective spring programs for Jefferson Community College.
However, the COVID-19 outbreak canceled both the Cannoneers baseball and softball seasons before they started in March.
The loss of the 2020 spring sports schedules was a big blow for both teams.
“It was extremely disappointing to not be able to have our season,” said Labiendo, who took over for Chelsea Monroe. “The players had worked hard beginning in the fall semester both academically and athletically to prepare themselves for our spring season.”
Noble, who took over the baseball managing duties from John Northrop, was hopeful when he saw an extra doubleheader against Cayuga CC scheduled for March 15. However, the season ended March 12 when the college announced all spring sports were canceled.
“It was a roller coaster week for us,” said Noble, who was the Watertown Rapids general manager last season. “We were hoping to play on the new turf over at Falcon Park (in Auburn), but then we got word the season was canceled.”
While most of the 15-member softball team was made up of players from the Frontier League, the baseball team has players from The Bronx, New Jersey and even three from Australia. Noble said one of those Australian players is still on campus for the rest of the semester.
“We had to figure things out to get guys home, but we have one of our Australians staying here,” Noble said.
One of the main challenges both coaches face is trying to recruit for the 2021 spring campaign. The NCAA did rule that all players can have an extra year of eligibility, but both Noble and Labiendo are trying to solidify their squads. Labiendo was a co-coach for the LaFargeville program and knows those players from camps hosted by the program.
“The last two seasons [have] given me a pretty good knowledge of the players in the Frontier League,” Labiendo said. “We also hosted skills clinics at SUNY Jefferson, in August and in February, that were well attended, that allowed me to familiarize myself with many local athletes.”
Noble is taking advantage of technology to bolster the roster, using video and scouting sites, such as Field Level to take a look at players from around the country. He said that he’s hoping to have some games to watch in the summer, but can make judgments about talent seen on video.
“I get to see a lot of players and get a lot of data,” Noble said. “We’ve been looking at players from all over the country, but this tool helps us narrow our search.”
Labiendo also hopes that he’ll be able to catch games with players from both the Frontier League and Northern Athletic Conference. However, he’s also looking at taking in a lot of travel softball with some of the north country’s teams if the high school season is scrapped.
“Hopefully, if the high school seasons are postponed, the travel ball season over the summer will be able to proceed, which will enable me to get out to see the athletes in action,” Labiendo said.
Both coaches are eager for their teams to practice and play games. Noble is planning ahead to the fall season when his team can get back on the diamond.
“I’m already looking forward to the fall where we can get a fresh start,” Noble said. “I can’t wait to welcome in the new guys when fall ball gets here.”