After waiting months to hear the fate of his second season in professional baseball, former Shippensburg University pitcher Michael Hope learned that he would not be taking the mound this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The SU alumnus dominated out of the bullpen in his rookie campaign and even launched a home run in one of his seven at-bats. Hope finished the season with a 3.47 ERA over 31 appearances, going 8-0 and compiling 46 strikeouts. He also walked 25 batters and added a save to his season stat line.
On Jan. 15, Hope was dealt to the Sussex County Miners of the Frontier League in a three-for-one trade. The transaction brought him to Augusta, New Jersey, only three hours away from home. The move would allow family and friends to see him play in-person more often. Before that, they traveled halfway across the country to Fargo, North Dakota, where the Redhawks play.
“I loved my time in Fargo and made lots of lifelong friends there,” Hope said. “However, it was a hike for my family and friends and now with being so much closer to home, I was really looking forward to being in a new atmosphere and getting the chance to see my family more often.”
In a June 24 press release, the Frontier League announced the suspension of the 2020 championship season due to ongoing gathering and travel restrictions.
However, all teams were granted the permission to pursue baseball and other activities in their facilities if state and local regulations allowed, according to the release.
While Hope understood the league’s reasoning to suspend the 2020 season, he said it was tough to hear the decision.
“I had been in contact with my coaches almost every day up until then and had been given the impression that there was a good chance our baseball season would happen,” Hope said. “So, when I was given the news, I was somewhat shocked.”
Hope added if the season did occur, he was not fearful of contracting the virus. However, he knew that it would have required him to be away from home for a few months.
“While I’m disappointed that I’m not playing baseball, I knew a lot of complications could’ve happened if we did have a season,” he said.
Despite the situation, his desire to be back playing baseball prevailed. Hope found his way onto the diamond.
Hope and former SU teammate Tommy Baggett have been playing recreational baseball with other local players in the Williamsport, Pennsylvania, area.
While he is not seeing the same level of competition as he does in professional ball, Hope said it has still given him the chance to stay loose and continue to work on his craft.
Additionally, Hope said he has maintained a pitching program and also worked with current Raider pitcher, Kyle Lysy, over the past couple months.
“Working with Kyle was awesome, and it allowed both of us to continue to grow our games and work on our mechanics,” he said.
Officials recently granted Frontier League teams permission to play baseball, within reason.
The Sussex County Miners announced on July 18, in a press release, that they would be returning to the field on July 23. The Miners and five other New Jersey and New York teams will make-up the All-American Baseball Challenge.
The recreational league will consist of minor league and collegiate baseball players in addition to players who are on the current rosters. Hope said he will not be participating in the league.
“While I would’ve loved to get out there and play, it simply was not possible,” he said. “I could not find housing in the area and it was too long of a drive to come up and back between here and New Jersey.”
On the bright side, Hope said he will continue to perfect his craft and prepare for next season. He added if an opportunity to play in a local league arose, he would jump on the chance immediately.
“Even though a lot of negativity has come out of this pandemic, the best way to go about it is look at the positives,” Hope said. “I may not be pitching this year, but I can take this as an opportunity to work on my game and come out better than ever next season.”