Tom Snook, athletic director at Vale High School, gazes out over the empty playing fields at the school. (Pat Caldwell/The Enterprise)

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VALE – Tom Snook, closing in on his 36th year as either a coach or athletic director for Vale High School, thought he’d seen just about everything.

Until the COVID-19 outbreak erupted.

The virus has strangled the nation’s economy, sent millions of people into their homes and shut down the vast, springtime prep sports machinery in Oregon.

In March, the Oregon School Activities Association suspended spring sports through April 28. The OSAA Executive Board is slated to meet April 15 to review the suspension of spring sports and decide on a longer suspension or to start play.

The meeting, though, will probably be unnecessary.

That’s because Gov. Kate Brown is scheduled to announce today that Oregon schools will close for the rest of the year. Though there has been no word from the OSAA about the governor’s planned announcement, her decision will almost certainly mean the end of prep sports for the year.

For Snook, the OSAA-mandated pause is unusual and places coaches across the state and Malheur County in a holding pattern.

Snook also coaches the Viking golf team. So far, his squad hasn’t missed a lot of competition because the early schedule was light.

“But we’ve missed a lot of everything else. A lot of baseball and we missed a bunch of softball,” said Snook.

The track and tennis seasons are also on hold, said Snook. Snook said about 120 students were slated to play spring sports this year.

During the pause coaches can’t stage workouts or practices but can still communicate with players, said Ontario High School Athletic Director Josh Mink.

Mink said 125 prep athletes from OHS were set to participate in the spring sports season.

Six weeks ago, Vale softball coach Cirbi Morrison envisioned a season full of potential and prep victories.

Now the second-year coach is wondering if her team will even step back on the diamond.

“It sucks. I had high hopes for this year,” said Morrison.

Morrison said she is disappointed for her senior players.

“My heart just breaks for them,” said Morrison.

Morrison said the suspended season will also impact younger softball players.

“I needed this year to help with next year, to show the freshmen what it is supposed to be like at this level,” said Morrison.

The slight slice of hope for the spring season to crank back up after April 30 is probably gone in the wake of the governor’s planned announcement.

Rick Yraguen said there were a lot of unknowns.

Yraguen, who has stood at the helm of the Viking baseball ship for at least 15 years, said the season suspension was “pretty tough.”

“We were expecting some pretty good things this year and then to just get shut down,” said Yraguen.

Yraguen said rumors continue to float around about what will occur with the spring season.

“I keep hearing about a petition where they want to move spring sports into summer. That would be tough,” said Yraguen.

Snook said the Vikings must “sit and wait on what the OSAA tells us what to do.”

“It is so up in the air and we don’t have any idea what we will do,” said Snook.

Morrison said “things are just crazy.”

“It’s tough. But it’s tough for the entire U.S.,” said Morrison.

Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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