RV-podium

Ronald Vincent speaks to the crowd at the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce annual membership celebration on Feb. 1. He received the organization’s legends award.

J.H. Rose High School baseball coach Ronald “RV” Vincent was born in Greenville in 1947 and has seen countless schedule changes in sports because of rain, snow and natural disasters.

He has always viewed Hurricane Floyd in 1999 as the most damaging event to alter sports in eastern North Carolina. Now topping his list is the COVID-19 pandemic that created an unprecedented nationwide halt to live sports and the need for people to stay away from each other.

“This is so different because back then you could go help your neighbor out, but with this, you’re kind of scared to go do anything,” Vincent, 72, said during a recent phone interview. “It’s scary because you just don’t know, but you watch the reports every night of how many new cases. ... Even during Hurricane Floyd, if you weren’t in one of the flooded areas, you could pretty much come and go as you wanted to.”

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s most recent extension suspended all sports until at least May 18. Public schools are closed through May 15.

There is hope by some spring sports players and coaches for a shortened version of a season or postseason.

The basketball state championship games, scheduled originally for March 14 with a slate including Farmville Central’s boys and girls each vying for a 2-A title in Chapel Hill, also were postponed.

The possibility of playing those basketball games, or any other games this school year, is in doubt.

“We’ll get through it and we’ll be better, but I wonder and just think right now with this season that we’re not going to play anymore,” Vincent said of baseball. “If you can’t come back (to school) until May 15, then we need at least 14 or 15 days to get our pitchers right again and get everything going again. That is pushing the first of June, and I just don’t see that happening.”

The state’s winningest coach, who guided the Rampants to state championships in 1975, ‘97, ’99, 2003, ’04 and ’08 and who also is a year-round asset for local youth baseball programs, has joined others in using alternate ways to fill his days.

“Walking the dogs and riding my bicycle,” Vincent said of what he’s doing. “Doing things around the baseball field that I never had the chance to do, just piddling stuff around the field. It’s nothing major, but just trying to find things to do.”

Rose won five of its first six games before games and practices were forced to stop.

The Rampants already beat New Bern, and next on its schedule was a matchup with rival D.H. Conley.

Vincent, who took over the Rose program in 1973, was optimistic about this season and his team’s potential.

Thoughts among so many coaches and players, especially seniors, have since shifted to wondering what if.

“I felt like we were really going to be good as time went on,” Vincent said. “We were not even as close as we were going to get, because our pitching was doing real good and we had guys at the bottom of the (batting) order hitting and giving us a chance. It’s one of the things that really breaks your heart, because everyone talks about the seniors, but it happened to all of them.

“I felt so good because our guys were working hard, and it’s one of those teams where our attitudes were real good. These guys really wanted to play and to be there, so that is a frustrating part.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.