Jeremy Houston hasn’t cleaned out his locker just yet. The IU baseball senior shortstop isn’t ready for it to be over.
On the day sports ceased, Houston was taking batting practice at Bart Kaufman Field. It was March 12, the day after IU beat the University of Cincinnati 6-2. The team didn’t know it wouldn’t be playing again.
While the team was winding down on the field and preparing to go to the weight room, the coaches called for a meeting in the locker room. They had just received a message from the Big Ten — the season was canceled.
“We went to the meeting and that’s where he announced everything for the rest of the season,” Houston said. “It was heartbreaking cause everyone was there, and everybody heard it at the same time. There were some tears, of course.”
Houston has been a constant in the IU lineup since his freshman year. He’s played 161 games with the Hoosiers and started 148 of them. His offensive numbers aren’t striking with a .208 career batting average, 100 career hits in 480 at bats, 58 career RBIs with 44 of them coming in his first two seasons and a .319 on base percentage. He was known more for his defense, where he has a .953 fielding percentage.
What could be his final season was taken from him. It all happened so suddenly. One minute he was hitting with teammates, and the next those same faces were filled with tears. It was Houston’s year to be a leader — he was by far the most experienced player on the team.
So after the coaches left the locker room, the players had a meeting. Houston said this team was as close as any he’d been a part of. He told his team in the locker room how much each player meant to him.
“Those guys, you spent an entire fall together, and then you came back and had a little of the spring together,” Houston said. “You have some really fun moments. Then you play with a lot of those guys, some of your best friends. It’s just hard to believe it ended like that. It’s going to be the last time you get to play with a lot of those guys.”
The team stayed in the locker room for two hours after the coaches left. They talked to each other individually, trying to come to grips with the end of their season. They were supposed to play the University of Memphis the next day, not prepare to go home. But Houston doesn’t think it will be the last time they are all together.
Houston recently left Bloomington and went back home to Chicago. He’s spent time doing homework and hanging out with family. No gyms are open. No parks, either. He’s worked out at home, taken ground balls on whatever fields he can find and played catch with his younger brother.
He’s trying to stay in shape because even with his senior season taken away, he still may have one more chance. That’s why he hasn’t emptied his locker just yet.
“We didn’t have to clean it out because we still don’t know what’s going to happen next year if we’re able to come back,” Houston said. “Still waiting on that. Depending on what the NCAA does, I'll go on from there.”
The NCAA is considering a proposal to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring sports athletes. That proposal would allow seniors such as Houston to have one more opportunity after a dramatically shortened season.
For Houston, much rides on that decision. If it is denied, he said there will be tears because it marks the official end of his collegiate career. The shock of the initial announcement would finally hit him.
But if the NCAA approves the proposal, Houston said he would be all smiles. He would keep his locker full.
He’ll come back to IU for one last year.