With baseball and softball put on the back burner, the Ocasio family of Winter Garden is adapting to life without the sports they love.
The sports of baseball and softball run deep in the Ocasio family.
In the garage of David Ocasio’s Winter Garden home, remnants of the sports can be seen everywhere. There’s the outline of home plate taped to the smooth concrete floor, while bats and gloves sit idly by waiting to be used.
But since the arrival of the coronavirus, the sports world has changed, and now the family — which is heavily involved in Winter Garden Little League, the Winter Garden Junior Squeeze and Empire — is stuck at home like everyone else.
“It’s boring, because you can’t do anything in the house except sit down,” said Kai Ocasio, 10. “I can’t play any games with my team.”
Kai Ocasio is not the only one feeling these effects. His brothers Kas Ocasio (12) and Kadan Ocasio (8), and cousin Savana Ocasio (14) all are dealing with a life without baseball (and softball), and each of them has strong feelings about being away from the sports they love so dearly.
“It’s kind of not fun, because I can’t see my friends that much and I can’t play with my team,” Kadan Ocasio said. “We didn’t finish the season — we weren’t even halfway done.”
The need to compete alongside their friends is quite alien to this group of youngsters who should be out rounding the bases on a ball field.
And just as it has been rough for them, it’s been just as rough on David Ocasio, who has dedicated his life to the game and coaches his sons on multiple teams in the Winter Garden Little League and the travel-ball Winter Garden Junior Squeeze.
“For me, I just like to get out and coach the kids and teach them,” David Ocasio said. “It’s a big part of my life — it is essentially who I am — and part of that, for two months, has been taken away. I had to readjust myself — instead of teaching numerous amounts of kids, I had to readjust to where now I’m just working with my kids.”
Although it has been disappointing not being able to work with all of the children who participate on his teams, it’s a silver lining that he has been able to enjoy focusing on the play of his own children, he said.
STAYING IN THE GAME
Although the season sits in limbo, now is the time to keep up workouts and practices any way you can, David Ocasio said.
For Savana Ocasio, a freshman on the West Orange High softball team, that means getting back to working on her swing and fielding.
“I have been hitting a lot — I just started going back to my hitting coach,” Savana Ocasio said. “And I’ve been taking a lot of pop flies, because I am an outfielder for the most part. For a lot of people, this is a great opportunity to try and work on their skills that they may have started lacking on before the coronavirus happened.”
In the makeshift gym in David Ocasio’s garage, a net is draped between two walls and acts as a place for his boys to do work off the tee. He also has them do swings with heavy bats, and when they can, they’ll usually head over to the Winter Garden Squeeze field in Oakland for some practice.
Although the Ocasio family has places to practice, David Ocasio understands that that’s not the case for everyone.
To supplement that lack of space, David Ocasio said there are a few solutions. YouTube is always a good source to find drills that children can work through, or simply calling a coach is another easy option.
“It’s boring, because you can’t do anything in the house except sit down. I can’t play any games with my team.”
— Kai Ocasio, 10
“Some things I tell kids to do is get into your baseball stance and go do some air swings — that doesn’t hurt, right?” he said. “You can do this at home — throw the ball against a wall and practice fielding it. If you don’t have a tee, find something to put a ball on and swing — it’s that simple.”
And then there are other options to keep moving, such as riding a bike, playing basketball or just running.
Of all things to take away from this time, Kas Ocasio is most excited about the growth of his game. He’s ready to put that hard work to use.
“I would like to see how what I’ve been doing and how (it will work) in a game — like fixing my swing,” Kas Ocasio said.
At the moment, the Winter Garden Little League season is still unclear — although David Ocasio said the league is working out a way of coming back. If it does come back, David Ocasio said he’ll be ready for it. He misses the sights, sounds and smell of baseball.
“It’s just smelling the air of baseball again,” David Ocasio said. “Regardless of whether we are social distancing or not, it’s just seeing the kids smiling out there and having fun again playing the sport they love.”