Andrew Walling & Fallon Molnar: Athletes face the realities of no sports

Michael Eubanks, Sports Contributor

This Q&A is the fourth in a 19-part series, “19 COVID-19 Stories,” updated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, diving into the unique perspectives of the Corvallis community as they face COVID-19 and all its social and economic effects. 

Andrew Walling is a sophomore right-handed pitcher for Oregon State’s Baseball program. Fallon Molnar is a senior utility player for OSU’s softball team. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both players have seen their respective seasons canceled and have been unable to work out with their teammates.

What are your initial thoughts about having your season canceled?

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Walling: It’s tough for sure. You spend so many hours preparing to play the game. That’s why you practice. That’s why you do all the work behind the scenes. To have that abruptly taken away is pretty tough. But you kind of just have to find the positives where you can. Looking at it as almost a second off-season and making yourself even better for when you compete again. 

Molnar: At first, we didn’t think it was going to get that bad. When we found out about all this stuff, we were on our way to Arizona. We were on the bus up to Portland and halfway there our coach just kept getting calls and more and more information about not having fans in the crowd and just having us playing. All of a sudden she got another call and said “Okay, our games are canceled, you guys. I’m so sorry.” It was kind of a tough moment because at first, she said it was canceled for the next two weeks and then we got a call the next day from coach and she said “Okay, I’m sorry but I think our season is canceled until further notice.” Then she messaged us and said “You know what guys? I don’t think it’s until further notice. I think our entire season is canceled.” Then we found out the College World Series was canceled and we were all pretty upset about that. I was hoping that things would blow over really quickly. I had my hopes up that we would have our season back. I had hope that we would get another year. We were all kind of planning on that right off the bat but then we had our team meeting and that was pretty emotional. Even Coach Burke cried a little bit. It was pretty sad. Most of the team was in tears. Us seniors all looked at each other and we were like “We don’t want this to be it.”

Fallon, the softball team did not even get a chance to play a home game. How did you and your teammates feel about that?

Molnar: We were pretty disappointed about that. We were more just disappointed because we were just kind of getting going and people were just getting over the little slumps that we were having. We already had a lot happen to us this year as far as teammates going down and not being able to play so people had to step up and play for them. This whole year has kind of been off. We were pretty sad to not play a home game, but we have high hopes for next year.

Are you still in Corvallis?

Walling: I went home. I headed back up probably about a week and a half ago.

Molnar: I’m back down in California now. I’m thinking of coming up after Easter to grab some more stuff and say hi to some friends. California has been a little more crazy than Oregon. I kind of wished I stayed up in Oregon.

Practice is really important for any athlete to maintain their competitive advantage. Have you been able to find ways to stay fit or practice at all?

Walling: I’m pretty fortunate with the facilities that I have where I live. I’m able to get into my own weight room and still train that way and get in my own batting cage and still do my exercises and my drills and really maintain (my skills) and stay sharp. I’m fortunate in that sense, even though we’re still quarantined and self-distancing, I’m able to keep getting the work in, which has really been huge for me. Even though we have practices canceled and can’t be on the campus with the other guys, this is a really good time to focus individually on our skills.

Molnar: It’s kind of hard to do. Our family has a really strict quarantine policy. We live on a ranch, so I’ve just kind of been staying there and not really going anywhere else. I find ways to work out, even if it’s not lifting weights. One day last week I went and built four miles of fence. I walked up and down the forest with all the heavy equipment and built the fence all day. I guess my teammates are working out a little bit either by going on a run or riding a bike a little bit. We have these online workouts our workout trainer has been sending us. I think a few girls are doing that. For me personally, I’ve been getting out on the ranch and hiking and doing stuff outside all the time. That’s where I get my workout.

The NCAA has said that they are going to grant an extra year of eligibility for all spring athletes. Fallon, as a senior, what do you think of that?

Molnar: I think all of our seniors are staying. I don’t want to speak for them on planning on staying, but I know I am. We don’t know the situation on the scholarships or anything, but we all are planning on staying an extra year because we’ve worked pretty hard for this for the past 12 years so we want to get as much out of it as we possibly can. It’s not that hard to add another minor or something like that as far as classes go. I think a few of us were on track to graduate this year. I know I was, but we’ll just add something else on to see if we can have another year under our belts.

Andrew, were some of your senior teammates worried at first before that statement came out?

Walling: Of course they were. The seniors were already trying to get that last season under their belts, (and) maybe looking at the (MLB) draft. They wanted to complete a full season to see what they had left in the tank, and then that was abruptly taken (from them). I can definitely see a sigh of relief from those guys in a sense that their playing career didn’t just get taken away, which I think is big with the eligibility being given back. 

Andrew, last season you played for the West Coast League’s Corvallis Knights over the summer. Has the pandemic affected your chances of returning to the team?

Walling: Those leagues don’t start until the beginning of June so I’m pretty optimistic about getting on the field this summer, which I’m really looking forward to. I’m hoping that this quarantine doesn’t expand out even further and possibly interfere with that season.  I’m really looking forward to the preparation and being there for that summer ball.

We already kind of have our teams figured out, so as of now all of the summer leagues are still planning to start regularly as scheduled and have regular operations. As far as we know, it’s to be determined, but right now it is a go for summer ball.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

Walling: I think people just need to know that social distancing is necessary and that we need to be able to hone in and focus on something positive that we can take from this. Even though we might see this as a large negative, being able to slow down and really focus and progress on things we may have not even realized we needed to progress on is something I think that we can come out of this with a lot of positives from.

Molnar: I think the team was mostly just sad for the seniors because all of us were going to come again next year and we’re all kind of wondering how it’s going to be with the seniors and then the incoming freshmen next year. We’re going to have five years of people all bunched together.

We’re actually super excited for next year. We’re going to have a lot of good kids come in and it’s going to be super fun to throw all that talent together. We’re going to have our girls that didn’t play this year because of injuries come back and be ready for next year, so we’re super excited for that. Can’t go anywhere but up from here, I guess.