TRAVERSE CITY — Midland softball fans spread out on the grass Saturday at Thirlby Field.
Chemics fans took advantage of seeing their team while they can, hitting the road for a matchup with the Trojans of Traverse City Central after Midland Public Schools announced it would shut down in-person learning and athletic activities for two weeks starting Monday.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday urged youth sports to pause for two weeks to combat a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan. Midland ended up as one of few suspending sports activities.
Traverse City Area Public Schools decided at a special board of education meeting Saturday evening to continue athletics without a pause.
Whitmer’s recommendation comes as Michigan’s per-capita COVID-19 case rates lead the nation.
All Midland County schools — which include Midland Dow, Sanford Meridian and Bullock Creek — sided with the Governor. Those decisions came after consultation with the Midland County Department of Public Health.
A Thursday story by The New York Times placed Midland No. 2 in the nation on a list of cities where new COVID case rates are increasing the fastest. Bay City ranked No. 4 and Mount Pleasant was No. 1 as eight of the top 10 cities listed come from Michigan.
Midland and Bay City Central play a softball doubleheader in Midland on Sunday.
“We came out early thinking a lot of other schools would follow,” said Amy Sanborn, watching her daughter Taylor catch against the Trojans. “But then they didn’t.”
Midland has offered face-to-face learning since August, aside from one state-mandated pause near Thanksgiving, Sanborn said.
“It’s a big bummer,” Sanborn said. “We hope they change their minds.”
Midland took a charter bus instead of a school bus to Saturday’s doubleheader against TC Central. The Chemics won 12-4 and 10-2.
“Nothing’s been the usual,” Midland softball coach Matt Starling said. “It’s an unusual situation, but everything’s been unusual, so we’re going to roll with the punches.
Midland won’t be able to conduct practices for that two-week period.
“That’s going to be incredibly weird,” Starling said. “It is going to put more importance on these games. I think every rep is very important. It’s very important for the spirit. That was a punch in the gut (Friday), so to get out here and play (Saturday) and (Sunday), well, it feels great. It’s great for our spirit.”
The Chemics moved a doubleheader against Bay City Central up to Sunday. Midland loses doubleheaders with league foes Bay City John Glenn and Lapeer.
“But we have a great group of kids and they’re handling all the COVID stuff and all the setbacks,” said Starling, whose team posted a 21-15 record in 2019 before the 2020 season was lost to coronavirus. “I couldn’t be prouder of how they’ve handled it, their maturity level.”
The Midland baseball team canceled an April 17 date against Traverse City Central, and hosts the Trojans at noon Sunday instead. The Chemics topped TC West 11-3 on Thursday.
Midland’s sports pause ends in time for a May 1 girls soccer date at TC Central, giving the Chemics only two games of preparation the previous week, while the Trojans could have played 10 contests by then. Midland Dow canceled an April 23 home girls soccer game against Traverse City West.