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Jenkins Optimistic Through the Uncertainty

Jenkins Optimistic Through the Uncertainty

by Josh White

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — For Hurricanes outfielder Tony Jenkins, March 12, 2020 felt like a bad dream.

One by one, professional sports leagues and college conferences across the country suspended play until further notice because of the spread of COVID-19.

The Atlantic Coast Conference followed at 3:05 p.m.

Already dazed and confused, Jenkins and his teammates tried to remain optimistic. They understood the severity of the situation but they were still hopeful they’d be back together playing baseball soon.

However, at 4:16 p.m., their nightmare became a reality.

Less than 24 hours before, they had just defeated No. 12 UCF in Orlando and the seven-ranked Hurricanes had their sights set on the College World Series.

Now, the Canes’ goals and aspirations were taken away.

The Twitter notification popped up on their phones showing the NCAA’s statement:

“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships…”

Canceled.

And instead of heading to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on Virginia Tech for a three-game series, the Hurricanes hopped on a bus to go back to Coral Gables.

“I didn’t think that Wednesday night at UCF was gonna be my last game of my junior year. It’s hard to wrap my head around it.” Jenkins said. “Honestly, it’s upsetting to know this group won’t be together again. It’s sad to see. I’ve been with a lot of these guys since freshman year. I’ve built great relationships with them. I know we will always be here for each other.”

Despite, the world going on pause, Jenkins has tried to make the most of the situation.

He has remained in Miami, working out, trying to be prepared for whenever baseball returns.

“There’s a lot of things up in the air,” Jenkins said. “I’m just working on myself right now. I’m working out a lot. I’m trying to put in a lot of work, getting bigger and stronger. I’m working on things to try and get better so when we come out of this situation I’ll be ready.”

The Rockledge, Fla. native was off to a strong start, batting .300 in 16 games. He homered for the first time since his rookie season and tallied a career-high four RBI in a victory over Kent State.

But Jenkins’ first two years as a Hurricane didn’t go as planned.

The speedster always impressed UM’s coaching staff during offseason scrimmages and practices but it never really translated to competition in the spring.

However, 2020’s shortened season was different.

“He believed in himself,” assistant coach Norberto Lopez said. “If you talked to all the coaches, every fall, we thought he was the most improved player on the team. But then it would come to the season and he would doubt himself. This year, he was more aggressive. He believed in himself. He knew he could do it. He started showing what he could do.”

Helping Jenkins along the way has been his teammates and family.

He has grown into the Hurricanes’ everyday centerfielder, taking on a leadership role in the outfield.

While he can’t be at Mark Light Field with his teammates, Jenkins tries to stay connected with them.

“If we’re not playing baseball or something baseball-related, we’re still bonding and still talking to each other,” Jenkins said. We’ve played a lot of Fortnite right now, hoping that these video games turn into baseball games when it’s safe.”

What is next for Jenkins remains uncertain but he is focused on one thing.

“Now it’s a time where we can work on ourselves. How can we, how can I be better,” Jenkins said. “Whatever it is you want to work at, we need to take advantage of it.”