By Tris Wykes
Jordy Allard isn’t allowing current, necessary precautions to diminish his love of baseball. Wearing masks, submitting to frequent diagnostic tests and taking meals in an outdoor tent can’t dim the former Hartford High star’s enthusiasm for returning to the field.
A senior at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., Allard spent the summer at home in Bridgewater, Vt., not far from Woodstock High School. The 21-year old helped coach the Junior Nighthawks, a team that essentially replaced the American Legion senior Post 84 squad for the summer.
The righthander also did the best he could to maintain pitching fitness and focus, although not under ideal conditions. He’d hurl baseballs into a tarp at his family’s horse barn or throw to friends at White River Junction’s Maxfield Sports Complex. Undertaking one or two such bullpen sessions per week, however, only went so far.
“It’s such a difference having someone to throw to every day,” Allard said from Babson, which recently welcomed students back under myriad safety measures regarding the Covid 19 virus.
“If you had told me a year ago that I was going to be thankful for playing a game of catch, I would have said ‘Yeah, right’. But that’s how this year has been with everything. It’s given people perspective, if they want to see it.”
Allard is taking two of his four classes online and the others in person. He was slated to live in a suite with five other baseball players, but they left for off-campus lodgings, so Allard now has the digs to himself. Babson students were tested for Covid upon their return to campus, quarantined for 24 hours after and now wear masks whenever outside their rooms.
To be allowed in the athletic weight room, team members had to post back-to-back negative tests and must continue to do so once each week. Every seven days, students swab themselves with a sample stick and turn it in at a diagnostic station set up by a private company in a nearby parking garage.
“It’s really not bad at all and you can tell a lot of time and effort has gone into the set-up,” Allard said, noting that signage directs students in and out of buildings through separate doors. “Some kids take it as the worst thing ever and say it’s not real college, but a lot of other colleges are online only.”
The Beavers start fall practices next week, when they’ll be limited to drilling in groups of 10 or less. For now, they work out informally.
“We just want to get to fall ball,” Allard said. “Last spring, it was only a day from the (Centers for Disease Control) saying there were positive cases around here to us being sent home. Each day, new news comes out and things change.”
Babson baseball coach Matt Noone is in his 19th season with the program and his 30th overall in the college game. He said he’s taken the upheaval as a chance to re-examine his teaching methods and that he’s not surprised that Allard is also going with the flow. The pitcher transferred to the NCAA Division III Beavers after a season at NCAA Division II Southern New Hampshire.
“I knew we were getting a good player but I didn’t know how good a leader and person he was,” said Noone, a 1990 Princeton graduate. “Jordy’s very mature and intelligent and he’s tuned in to the urgency of the situation in the world right now.”
Babson made its Division III College World Series debut in 2019, when Allard was 8-1 with a 4.13 ERA and struck out 45 batters in 56 2/3 innings. He suffered his only loss after surrendering six runs in 8 2/3 innings during the Beavers’ final game.
“He throws strikes and he’s a real competitor,” Noone said. “I feel bad that he missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this summer.”
The coach was referring to the two-week contract Allard signed with the Falmouth (Mass.) Commodores in the top-flight Cape Cod Baseball League. Considered the country’s best wooden-bat college circuit, the Cape often gives lower-level players an early look while Division I players compete in their playoffs and World Series.
Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, a 2013 Dartmouth College graduate, parlayed such a chance into a full-season gig in 2010. Allard was likely to wind up playing a second consecutive season in the New England Collegiate Baseball League with the Upper Valley Nighthawks, but to not have even a chance at sticking on the Cape was unfortunate.
Covid’s silver lining for Allard is that he’ll graduate from Babson with a business administration degree next spring and have a fourth and final year of college eligibility to potentially use at a Division I program in 2022. While there, he could earn a master’s degree.
“He’s in a unique situation and depending on what happens, he could have a lot of options,” Noone said. “Maybe he can use the pandemic to his advantage and get another great opportunity.”
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