Shortened season leaves TCC baseball coach in a strange place; exit interviews next for Eagles

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Life for Mike McLeod this time of the year just isn’t the same anymore.

The coronavirus pandemic has left the TCC baseball coach in a bit of a quandary. Not since his days in high school has he had a March break from baseball, said McLeod who is in his 30th season as coach of the Eagles.

“Sort of weird time like the world is upside down,” said McLeod.

TCC joined every other college program in the country when it announced cancellation of all sports on March 16. That was four days after programs were suspended.

The Eagles were 8-1 during the first two weeks of March before the season was called to a halt. They were in a midst of a Panhandle Conference series with Chipola when play was suspended at first.

Baseball coach Mike McLeod takes a break to reset his TCC team during a recent game. Photo courtesy TCC athletics

The team is left with an overall record of 26-9, 16-6 at home.

McLeod has been spending some of his time going through old family photos that his father, Leslie, has stored in boxes before his death three years ago. Some of the photos will be shared with family members, he said.

“It’s just stuff that takes a lot of time,” he said. “You’re going through it, and memories start to click back. It’s not something you motor through.”

During the upcoming week, McLeod will conduct exit interviews with his players. They’ll also check out of their apartments and clear out their lockers, something that he wishes they didn’t have to do in March.

“What sad about it is the kids have worked so hard all year,” said McLeod, who got his 1,000th win in a non-conference game against Thomas University in February. “We didn’t start out great and struggled a little bit early.”

Mike McLeod as been spending some of his time recently sorting through a
collection of photos that belonged to his father. Photo special to the Outlook

Then in late February, the Eagles started a turnaround when they beat St. Johns River State College 6-0.

“Our kids started to believe that they could play with anybody,” he said.

What was transpiring at the time when the season abruptly ended was a brotherhood unlike infielder Trent Jeffcoat has ever seen in two seasons with the program.

“This team was certainly better than last year’s team,” said the sophomore from Pensacola. He added that he is looking forward to regaining the season as promised by the NJCAA.

The same can’t be said for Leighton Alley, though. He is a transfer from a four-year program and had built up enough credit to earn his AA degree last fall.

As much as he would like to come back to use the extra year at TCC, Alley acknowledged that he will have to move on. He intends to pursue the possibility of playing at Jacksonville University and Florida Atlantic, he said.

He would have preferred to complete this season at TCC, though.

“It’s real disappointing to have it come to an end like this,” he said. “I felt I got better and the guys came in and we were clicking. We are all pretty bummed that it came to an end so fast.”