Editor’s Note: The following is a Q&A between Emily Ohman, baseball beat writer for The Daily Californian, and Mike Neu, Cal baseball head coach, who weighs in on the unexpected and abrupt end of the season just moments before the team was set to depart for Washington State to begin conference play. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Emily Ohman: If you could try to describe this experience for you or how it’s been for the team, what do you think you would say?
Mike Neu: It’s really just unprecedented. There’s really no way to prepare for it. It’s so different to go from fully in the middle of the season. I mean, literally getting prepared to play our first conference series and excited about that opportunity and really getting a chance to hopefully almost restart the season when you start conference — to being at home with no baseball, within a few days. I think our last team meeting we had was a Friday after our first series was supposed to happen. (We) were there for two days, and then that was it, everybody’s back home. It was just a really sudden thing, and unexpected — trying to figure out what we were able to do and what was safe for our team. Luckily, the conference made that decision for us and we weren’t going to be able to go on that trip anyway. But I mean, you’re definitely trying to figure out what is OK to do before that, even the night before. A lot of things are changing really quickly.
EO: So have you guys been Zooming as a team?
MN: Once a week we’ve been getting on Zoom with the whole team and doing a check-in. There’s new information that comes out every week as far as NCAA rules and eligibility, just what the latest is with the climate of this situation, so we’ve been giving updates and checking in with our guys. Our staff has been meeting on Zoom every other day, so we’re just trying to keep a regular schedule. We go over all the items that we can for recruiting, just trying to unpack the season and figure out how we can improve for the future. We have a rare opportunity to have some extra time on our hands in the middle of the season. We want to be productive, as far as being more organized for when we come out of this — being more organized for the future, for our practice planning and preparation for games, for our recruiting, for managing our guys on the academic side and assisting them in that area. I think in every part of our program we’re talking about trying to spend this time the most efficiently and effectively we can. I feel like we’ll come out of this better and if we do it that way, (that’s) the goal right now for us.
EO: Looking back at the very brief season you had, what were some of the highlights or favorite moments for you?
MN: Getting that last win and going into conference feeling like we had a little bit of momentum. I just felt like we were continuing to learn the game and get better. We had such a different group of guys from the previous year, where we obviously had a really successful year — but when you have so many new guys and some injuries, we felt like we were coming back from that too. I felt like that last game … we had a comeback win, we had some guys play well and come up big in big situations, and we hadn’t had a lot of that early in the year. We hadn’t had a lot of comeback or clutch plays, and for us to show some signs of life right there, I think that was exciting. That for me was probably the best part of it, just to see us hopefully start to turn the corner and get some good experience. It’s unfortunate that we don’t get a chance to keep going with that because I really felt confident that our team was going to continue to get better throughout the year and gain a lot of experience for the young guys.
EO: Is there anything that you wish you could change about the season the team was having?
MN: You always feel like you can be more prepared, and we obviously went into the first weekend and lost the 13-inning game on Friday, and we didn’t quite bounce back the way we were hoping from that. We just couldn’t get the momentum that we wanted to get. As a coach, you always think about how we can be more prepared. Even though we didn’t have a lot of experience on the field, I think that we could have done a little better job preparing these guys and getting them ready to be in a position to win some games. We had some tough losses and we did have some injuries, but everybody has that. I don’t ever want to make any excuses for where we’re at. At the end of the day, we were 5-11 and I felt like we could have been better than that going into conference. In the future, you really want to identify what we can prepare these guys better for and make those adjustments.
All remaining 37 games of the Cal baseball season have been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.