A Difficult Conversation: How John Delaney told his team the season was canceled


Photos: QU Athletics

Jacob Resnick

Up until this past March, the most difficult conversation John Delaney had been a part of during his baseball life was when he was told that the Milwaukee Brewers were releasing him, effectively terminating his dreams of becoming a major league player.

That was ten years ago. So excuse him if it took more than a couple of minutes to collect himself before he told the Quinnipiac baseball team that its season had been cancelled due to the coronavirus, just 14 games in.

“By far the hardest conversation I’ve had to relay to a team or player individually,” Delaney, the program’s head coach since 2015, said. “The fact that you guys have played your last game of the season, for seniors, you played the last game of your career.

“I kind of rolled through it a few times before I talked to them, thinking what’s the best way to say it? There is no best way.”

Delaney and the Bobcats were en route to Tallahassee, Florida, on March 12 when they found out that their series with Florida A&M and the other 38 games left on the schedule would not be played.

While the announcement was a punch to the gut, suspicions of impending bad news began a day earlier, while the team traveled to Kennesaw, Georgia, for a midweek matchup with Kennesaw State University.

On that bus ride, Delaney began receiving text messages from coaches at other Connecticut schools, including two scheduled Quinnipiac opponents — Yale and Central Connecticut State — that their seasons were being put on pause.

“I turned to one of my coaches, Pat Egan, and said ‘Hey, I don’t think this is going to go very well. It’s just a matter of time before it hits us.’”

Though the Bobcats played — and won — the game against the Owls, the mood was far from cheerful.

“During that game, the gut feeling was that this could be our last one of the season,” Delaney said. “I was hoping it wasn’t.”

Perhaps the most difficult part of the unexpected cancellation to grapple with for Delaney and his team was the fact that the club’s seniors did not know that they were playing in the final game of their careers while it was unfolding.

For some, that meant the end of a 15-plus year journey that was snatched away from them in the blink of an eye.

Those players knew they would have one final game during the 2020 season to celebrate the years-long path that had led them to Quinnipiac. Except they had expected it to take place in Hamden in May, not in Kennesaw, Georgia, in March.

“I wanted to try and make sure I got those seniors in there,” Delaney said. “ I was lucky that they extended the game and we got a chance where Kyle Horton was able to pinch-hit in the last inning and get that game-winning hit for us in the last at-bat of his career.”

With the news that their season had been cancelled, the Bobcats could do nothing more than ruminate on their future while traveling down the Georgia interstate, nearly 1,000 miles from home.

“The biggest thing was the emotions of the fact that Quinnipiac baseball is no longer going to be a part of their life on a field,” Delaney said.

“The one thing we did know is that we walked on the field and gave it our all for those 14 games we played. And our last five games were games where we showed that we can compete at a high level.”

The leave-it-all-on-the-field mindset may ring harder now, with the events of the spring in the rearview mirror, but it isn’t new to Delaney’s coaching gospel.

“To be honest that’s been one of the things that we preach to our guys on a daily basis. One of my big things is if you walk off the field not exhausted or not tired, then there was more that you could have given back to the game. If you walk off the field mentally exhausted then you’ve done everything in your power to make yourself a better baseball player.

“That’s also true with how the season went. You never know when things are going to end. Everyone has that conversation, and some find out in pro ball. For me, I got called into the office and was told, ‘Hey, you’re not going to be a big leaguer with the Brewers.’ That’s not a conversation you ever want to hear from someone but it’s the truth, and I don’t think any of our college players ever expected to have the conversation like we had on that bus.

“But I think it just amplifies the aspect of every day on the field being a precious day, and one you want to cherish. You want to maximize your day as much as possible, and we do that as a group. I think that’s how you develop the program into an elite one.”

Though 14 games doesn’t seem like much, it isn’t wrong to say that the Bobcats took another step towards becoming an elite program in 2020.