Cross-country drives are typically a little more leisurely than the one recently completed by Sequim’s Evan Hurn and a pair of Marshall University baseball teammates.
Hurn and his fellow NCAA Division I ballplayers packed up and left Huntington, W.V., on a pell-mell trip home after their seasons were canceled by coronavirus in March.
An injury slowed Hurn early in the season, but he was upbeat for his and the team’s prospects, particularly after his spirits were raised in a recent visit by Wilder Baseball Club head coach Zac Moore.
Moore, a Port Angeles police officer who coached Hurn at the Cal Ripken, Babe Ruth and Senior Babe Ruth levels, had never see him play college baseball in stints at Edmonds Community College and across the country at Marshall.
The rapid change in circumstances this month, necessitated the trip.
“I have a teammate from Coos Bay, Ore. (Zach Inskeep), and we played against each other in the NWAC Tournament,” Hurn said. “Small world, you know. And I rode with him and another teammate (Geordon Blanton) who’s from Kentucky.”
Hurn said the trio completed the 2,600-plus mile drive from Huntington to Coos Bay in 38 hours last week.
“We wish we could have stopped and done some sight-seeing, it’s a trip we’d always wanted to take,” Hurn said. “We thought we would be making the trip in a couple of months and maybe we could stop and see a Cardinals game in St. Louis or a Royals game in Kansas City on the way.”
Hurn, an All-Conference USA All-Academic team selection, thought, like thousands of other senior student-athletes around the country, that he would play out the final season of his career, graduate and then make the transition to adult life.
The graduation portion of that thought process will be realized for Hurn in a little over a month when he earns a bachelor’s degree in health science.
But the transition to the rest of his life already may have started for the Sequim High School class of 2016 star who returned to the area last summer to play for the West Coast League’s Port Angeles Lefties.
News traveled fast to Hurn and his teammates, who were in the Columbus, Ohio, airport when they learned their trip to Houston to begin Conference USA play had been halted about five minutes before departure.
By the time the group had bussed the 2-and-a-half hours back to school, the NCAA had called off the College World Series and all other spring sport championships, ending the season before it had really kicked into full swing.
“We got back and met in our basketball area with the lights off,” Hurn said. “None of the coaches knew what was going on, none of them still know what’s going on. At that point we thought we would still do team activities and hang out around campus, but that all changed fast.”
Faced with the prospect of staying put in West Virginia or heading home to be closer to family, Hurn jumped at the chance to head back to the west coast.
“Be stuck back there or ride with Zach,” Hurn said of his options. “And then we had another teammate from Kentucky that wanted to come. He figured it might be his only chance to see the Pacific Northwest. It was fun to have a Kentucky kid on the road with us. That was his first time seeing mountains.”
Back home, Hurn is staying at home and experiencing something strange — an abundant amount of free time. Baseball leans into a year-round schedule at the college level like a batter looking to get plunked by a pitch — with fall ball practices and games, training, academics and work all thrown into the mix.
“I can’t remember the last time I had time off where I wasn’t working or playing baseball,” Hurn said. “It’s been at least since before high school.”
Following social distancing protocol and staying home is what’s important for Hurn, who’s elementary school-age sister, Sophia, is in remission from leukemia.
“I can’t go around to my dad’s right now to see my sister,” Hurn said. “She was pulled out of school probably a week or two before everything hit the fan to protect her. She’s staying home and doing classes online. The school gave her a computer and my dad (Robert Hurn) gave in and finally set up wifi.”
Hurn just has to think about his sister’s health to realize all of these life-altering changes are for the greater good.
“It’s obviously a really tough situation for us seniors, but it does help knowing every other senior is going through it. My girlfriend and mom are sad about it, but it’s obviously way more important to not be playing. It’s not the way any of us or even some of us imagined it ending, but there are (bigger things than baseball).”
The NCAA has discussed providing 2020 seniors with an extra season of eligibility, but Hurn is unsure.
“I still don’t know about returning,” Hurn said. “I very well could have played my last baseball game. I was totally prepared to be done in two months. But those were going to be a big couple of months. It’s tough leaving home in more ways than one, family-wise and financially.”
Hurn knows that he’ll be part of giving back to the game he loves as soon as he can. Moore asked him to serve as Wilder’s hitting coach.
“I was looking forward to being the hitting coach or doing whatever he needed,” Hurn said. “I am still looking forward to that.”