One of the more highly anticipated annual events in Enid, the NJCAA Division II World Series, has now been added to the list of cancelled sports events due to ongoing concerns over potential spread or exposure to the coronavirus.
The NJCAA announced Monday afternoon that all spring sports competition, including practices, regular season, postseason and national championships (World Series) were suspended for the remainder of the academic year. The organization also announced it was canceling its national basketball tournaments.
It also brings an abrupt end to the baseball season for the defending World Series champion Northern Oklahoma College Enid Jets, who were in their first season under head coach Scott Mansfield.
For more than a decade, Enid has hosted the annual World Series, providing not just excitement but also bringing with it significant revenue for Enid businesses.
World Series Tournament Director Bill Mayberry said the cancellation was unfortunate, but not surprising in light of the spate of sports cancellations across both professional and collegiate sports.
"We're disappointed but also glad we are taking care of our citizens," Mayberry said. "This virus is so much bigger than anything else."
This would have been the 12th year David Allen Memorial Ballpark would have been the site of the World Series. Last season's World Series set attendance records buoyed by NOC Enid's playing for the World Series Championship.
A ballpark-record estimate of 4,200 fans packed David Allen Memorial Ballpark on May 31, 2019, as the Jets battled Mesa (Ariz.) in the championship game. The Jets won in dramatic fashion when sophomore Dylan Caplinger broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the 9th inning with a two-run homer as the Jets defeated the Thunderbirds 6-4 for their first-ever World Series title.
Late last week the NJCAA had announced that spring sports were on hold until at least April 3, giving hope to Mansfield and the Jets that the baseball season would not be totally lost. But Monday's announcement ended any hopes of resuming the season.
"There really is just disappointment on so many levels," Mansfield said. "From not being able to play, to not being able to defend your championship. But the biggest disappointment is that you won't be able to suit up with your guys and sit in the same dugout and compete with those guys ever again.
"All we wanted to do was have a say in how our season was going to end, unfortunately we don't have that opportunity. I thought we were on track to do some special things."
Mansfield said when he got the news he was with his wife, who wanted to make sure he kept his spirits up.
"My initial reaction was disappointment for my guys and then selfishly, for myself," Mansfield said. "Trying to keep my head above water."
Mansfield said he will be getting together with NOC Athletic Director Jeremy Hise to discuss the next steps for his players, who currently are on spring break.
"We just need to make sure our guys stay on top of their studies, that's still our No. 1 priority," Mansfield said. "None of this has been normal for them or any of us."
In its announcement Monday, the NJCAA said no spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled at a member college in 2020 will be charged a year of participation.
Mansfield said he remains hopeful that at some point the Jets will be allowed to at least engage in some on-field activities even if actual competition is prohibited. Currently, all activities, including practices, are banned.
Mayberry, who also serves as Enid Public Schools Athletics Facilities Supervisor and steward of David Allen Memorial Ballpark, said the ballpark, and EPS are being proactive in protecting players, which includes "spraying down everything — all the weight rooms and locker rooms — everywhere there are students, we are doing it."
The loss of the World Series and potentially other events at David Allen Memorial Ballpark, depending how long and extensive any further coronavirus-related postponements and cancellations may be, will be felt beyond the diamond.
A study done by Visit Enid two years ago estimated the ballpark has an economic impact in the neighborhood of $5.5 million, according to communications coordinator Rob Houston.