Ever since his daughter, Danielle, was killed by a drunk driver in October of 2014, Bob Allen has found some kind of solace in coaching. That has made this year’s delay in the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 virus even more troublesome for the veteran coach.
“The hardest part of the delay is not seeing the athletes on a daily basis,” said Allen, who has been the head baseball coach at Hillsboro since the 2016 season. “Ever since the death of my daughter, coaching is the biggest catharsis for me seeing my athletes daily and watching them improve and be better makes each day better.”
While they lost some talented players from last year’s 12-11 squad, the Toppers were poised to bring back several returning starters. The roster also featured four seniors, Nic Ondrey, Tanner Mullen, Brock Bellaver and Owen Malloy. Both Bellaver and Mullen were second team all-conference selections last year, while Ondrey batted .304 on the season.
The fact that the pandemic could steal their senior season from them also hits Allen hard.
“They are great kids to be around and I am devastated for the seniors,” he said. “The NCAA can give an extra year of eligibility but this may be the last time these four men ever step foot on a baseball field and it is so sad that may be a reality.”
With the team sheltered in until at least April 30, if not longer, the Toppers will have lost 21 games to COVID-19. The IHSA has stated they would consider extending the seasons into the summer, but if the shelter in order is extended, they would probably have no other choice than to cancel the whole campaign.
“I keep the athletes updated on the goings on with the IHSA and ask that they be safe and healthy and hopefully by the grace of God we have some sort of season,” said Allen.
Whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess at this point, but it would definitely be cathartic to all parties involved.