Blue Ridge baseball coach Brian Sparks’ final-season swan song is fading away.
Sparks planned on retiring from teaching and coaching after the school year and moving to Colorado to “be a full full-time grandpa.”
But IHSA officials announced last week that spring sports would follow the same end-of-April timeline Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced for the extended stay-at-home order pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is my swan song as a teacher and coach, and this is definitely not how I wanted it to end,” Sparks said. “I am very involved with my students’ activities, and I miss school more than you can imagine. But, after wallowing in self-pity for a while, I know this is much bigger than me, and I am just trying to stay positive and look for ways I can help.”
Though Sparks is not able coach or teach at the school, his life since the stay-at-home order has been eventful.
The first week of cancelled school he spent trying to figure out the kinks to remote learning.
The second week during spring break, he stayed home with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law because they had to cancel their trip to Hawaii together.
But after the stay-at-home order was extended through April, Sparks decided to help where he was most needed.
“This past Monday, my wife and I headed to Colorado to quarantine ourselves for two weeks because my son asked us to,” he said. “His wife is very pregnant, and he wanted us available to help out with their three-year old daughter once the baby is born. State Farm won’t let my wife in the office (where she works), and I figured I can do remote learning from Colorado as well as I can from Illinois, so here we are!”
He is communicating with his player via texts, and though the IHSA has announced it will do its best to have some type of spring sports season, Sparks has his doubts.
“If the stay-home order ends May 1, then we’ll get some games in,” he said. “I do not personally think it will end May 1.”
Not only was this his last season, Sparks was expecting a good season.
“As you can imagine, this is affecting every kid differently,” he said. “But I think it’s safe to say practice was going well and we were really looking forward to this year.”
Sparks teaches chemistry and physics, and with no school and no practice, he has not been able to do too much. Neither has his players.
“It’s been, personally, very hard,” Sparks said. “I give the school, especially the guidance department, a ton of credit for trying to keep everyone positive. They have been awesome.”
Last season the Knights finished 11-16 overall and 6-6 in the Little Okaw Valley Conference.
If the baseball season opened in May, Blue Ridge is scheduled for six games.
The first game is scheduled against Arcola at home May 4.
The Knights are also scheduled to play Ridgeview (5/5), Lexington (5/8), Fisher (5/11), Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (5/12) and Midland (5/15).
The IHSA regionals are scheduled for May 18.