Pitchers during a pandemic

Posted at 5:18 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 18:22:00-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Nothing says social distancing like a game of long toss.

Connor Jones and Alec Bettinger, members of the 2015 UVA NCAA title team and now both minor league pitchers, play catch Thursday afternoon in Chesapeake. Days like these are a luxury. Yes, the weather is nice, but the company is even better.

"You have to get creative," Jones, a graduate of Great Bridge High School, says about his ability to keep his arm in shape while baseball is on hold due to the coronavirus. "I have a rubber mat I can hang up on the fence and throw to. I've seen people buying nets to throw on their own."

"There's a middle school where I live, and they have a field hockey net - it's perfect," admitted Bettinger. "My girlfriend throws the ball back to me."

Jones has reached Triple-A in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Bettinger finished last season in Double-A with the Brewers. Now, both are playing the waiting game as their profession remains at a standstill

"I'm just taking it day by day, week by week," Bettinger said. "Nobody knows what's going to happen. There's been talks, but nobody actually knows yet."

"We have the same uncertainty everybody has," Jones added. "All I do know is the more everyone follows the rules, the faster we can get back to normalness."

While Connor and Alec cannot use their arms the way they are accustomed to doing so, they can still use their brains - and that's exactly what they're doing. The duo launched Virginia Pro Pitching, and give lessons to local youngsters as well as host clinics in the offseason.

"We've got time and I know there are a lot of high school kids looking to try to keep improving," Jones said.

"We actually learn throughout the process, too," Alec admitted. "I've given a lesson then thought about what I told a kid, and wondered if it would work for me."

"It's nice baseball is a socially distant sport," Jones added. "We stay 60 feet away from each other."

Connor and Alec are fine being a long way away for an occasional game of catch. But like fans of baseball, they hope the return of real games is much closer.