When COVID-19 forced all college athletics to stop last March, SUNY New Paltz senior athletes were seemingly left high and dry. Their last season, and in turn their career, was unceremoniously cut short.
Not all hope was lost, though. The NCAA granted these Division III student athletes an extra year of eligibility to make up for their lost spring season. While some opted out, a handful of them jumped at the opportunity to play their beloved college sport one more time.
“I had intentions of coming back to get my master’s regardless, but knowing that I could still play and my career wouldn’t end was a feeling that was indescribable,” said New Paltz graduate student and baseball pitcher Anthony Amoroso. “I was so relieved and extremely happy.”
Amoroso, who graduated with a degree in Business Marketing in 2020, is pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration with the hopes of landing a career in sports management and marketing. Yet his plans don’t stop there; he wants to play baseball professionally overseas in the Italian Baseball League.
“My personal pitching coach used to play there after he played in the majors, so he connected them to me for the upcoming season,” Amoroso said. “I just gotta have a good year and everything. It should work out.”
“I just want the younger guys to understand that this goes by way faster than they realize,” Amoroso said. “School is equally as important as baseball and [they should] just enjoy the opportunity they’re given and work their hardest at it.”
Madison Rappold, a catcher on New Paltz’s softball squad, also opted to stay another season. Like Amoroso, she’s a graduate student, studying early childhood education. Yet sports-life balance as a graduate student isn’t exactly served on a silver platter.
“Having practice throughout the day and then class at night definitely makes for a long day,” Rappold said. “I also think my classes are more demanding as a graduate student so they require more time to be put in.”
In addition to balancing graduate school, she also coaches a 14U softball team, the Long Island Ducks, when she’s not at school. She doesn’t just serve as a coach to her girls, but also to her underclassmen on the softball team, emphasizing living in the moment.
“My mentality heading into this final season is to win,” Rappold said. “There is nothing we all want more than a SUNYAC title. I want to lay it all out there, I want to leave this program knowing I gave everything I possibly had.”
Not every fifth-year athlete is a graduate student, such as baseball outfielder Matt McGee. Since he transferred to New Paltz from St. Leo University and switched his major, he still had credits to complete that he couldn’t do in four years. He decided to stay one extra year to finish up his degree in communications.
“The game can be taken away from you at any moment and the opportunity just made me strive to get better and to reach the goals that those who didn’t come back never got to achieve,” McGee said.
Regardless of their paths, their message is unified: don’t take your interests for granted. One day, they’re there and the next, they’re gone.