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Shields remains hopeful Tribe will have chance at 7th title in as many years

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Veteran Bridgeport baseball coach Robert Shields remains hopeful he will be able to guide the Indians in their quest for a seventh straight Class AA state championship this season.

For now, however, the Indians’ skipper is left to think back to his team’s nine preseason practices — and more specifically, the ninth itself. 

“Our last practice before they shut everything down we had the field for an hour and a half at (nearby) Frank Loria Field,” Shields recalled. “We worked on a lot of defense and looked to be in midseason form defensively. Us coaches were talking about how it’d be a sad situation if we couldn’t play, and how if the pitching held up this had the makings of a great ball club.”

With school and spring sports on hold throughout the Mountain State since March 13 in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), Shields is in the unfamiliar position not coaching baseball to start the spring.

“The main thing is we have to get the world back in place, which means hopefully find a cure for this and get back to normalcy,” Shields said. “Even though we’ve won six in a row, I’m not crying or mad over this. I’m looking at the whole picture.” 

With a strong nucleus returning off a team that beat Frankfort 5-2 in last year’s title game, Shields had an optimistic outlook for the 2020 Indians. Additionally, a talented group of sophomores and juniors were ready to step into bigger roles.

“We have a lot of good athletes and they looked good,” Shields said. “I really liked the make-up of this team.”

With no timetable for a return to school, Shields knows an already condensed spring sports season is likely to be even more so should it occur. Still, the coach with more than 800 wins and eight state titles would be in favor of anything that allows for a season at all.

“You think about what ifs and how you’d handle certain things, but I don’t think any coach across the state for any spring sport would not want to have some sort of season for their kids,” Shields said.

Now, approaching two weeks into the suspension of the season, Shields is keeping his fingers crossed that there will be one.

“We have to take care of everything else before we can take care of athletics. Everybody wants to get out, let alone our kids to go perform in front of everyone,” Shields said. “Nobody wants to be cooped up. I think any spring sport person would be obliged with a shortened season — 12, 14 games, whatever it may be. For the seniors especially and the kids and their families, everybody would love that.”