It’s Friday, May 29, and gray clouds hang over Boshamer Stadium.
An elderly couple strolls past Avery Residence Hall, just west of the field. Minutes later, a tall bearded man in joggers walks by, panting. There’s a slight breeze, and the occasional chirp of a bird. Otherwise, the home of the North Carolina baseball team is quiet.
In a normal season, today would mark the beginning of the NCAA Baseball Tournament, culminating in the eight-team College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, starting June 13. The Tar Heels, 12-7 when their season was cut short, were ranked No. 23 by D1Baseball at the start of the year. Now though, there is nothing to play for. The stadium's 4,100 seats remain empty.
Boshamer has been UNC baseball's home since 1972. The only exception was in the 2008 season, when it was closed for renovations; since then the stadium has been the site of six NCAA regionals and four super regionals. The names and retired numbers of four Tar Heel greats — Dave Lemonds, B.J. Surhoff, Andrew Miller and Dustin Ackley — adorn the outside of the press box. Green tapestry along the left field line marks the team’s 11 College World Series appearances in program history.
Raindrops begin flittering to the ground, and a rare passerby takes notice. At a side entrance to the stadium, a single gray Buick Roadmaster sits alone in the bicycle rack. A laminated notice with the heading “Protect UNC” gives tips for how to prevent the spread of illness: wash hands often, avoid touching the face, cover coughs and sneezes, clean and disinfect frequently.
Next door, at the football team’s Bill Koman Practice Complex, a black Jeep Grand Cherokee pulls in. Its driver punches in a code and enters, followed by a sports medicine cart a few minutes later. On June 12, athletic director Bubba Cunningham announced that coaching staffs for the football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams will be allowed back on campus. Football players will begin their return on the same day, with separate groups arriving on June 12, 19, 26 and 29. A timeline for the return of spring sport coaches and players was not given.
On this supposed game day, no stadium employees rush out, tarp in hand, when the drizzle turns into a downpour. The rain continues until puddles form in every seat and soak through every would-be game program and UNC baseball cap. The infield of Boshamer Stadium turns to mud.
It’s Saturday, May 30, and there’s rust on the locks of every entrance to Boshamer Stadium.
It’s late afternoon and 86 degrees with no sign of the cloudburst from the day before. The sun beats down on the infield, and the outfield, no longer covered in puddles, looks ready for playoff baseball. If there were a game today, the Dippin’ Dots stand would have had a very good few hours.
The weather is just as it was 11 months and 20 days ago, in game three of the Chapel Hill Super Regional against Auburn. In that game, the Tar Heels gave up 13 runs in the first inning, the second-highest scoring frame in NCAA Tournament history. They lost, 14-7, ending their season. Nine of the Tigers’ first inning runs came with two outs and UNC was forced to burn through four pitchers to end the nightmare. Michael Busch, the junior infielder and first round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was in tears after the game. "You always hate to see your family broken up," head coach Mike Fox said at the time. "That's kind of what happens at the end of the year."
This season would have been a chance to avenge that loss. North Carolina was returning Aaron Sabato, last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year and an All-American. It was returning Danny Serretti, another ACC All-Freshman team selection. It was returning Joey Lancellotti, who walked the first four batters before being pulled in that season-ending loss to Auburn, then posted a 2.22 ERA in 2020. Since the season ended, Fox dictated that his players remain quiet until he has “a better understanding of the future ahead.” The team hasn’t been made available to the media since March.
The bushes along the sidewalk at Boshamer could use a trim. The curtains covering the box office window are askew. At the main entrance, alternating bricks are adorned with the names of alumni donors, none of whom will see another North Carolina baseball game this season.
It’s Sunday, May 31, and it’s a perfect day for baseball at Boshamer Stadium.
People are out and about today. The Roadmaster bike is gone now. It’s 75 degrees with an easy breeze and a cloudless Carolina blue sky, the kind of day that University tour guides dream about. It feels criminal that a baseball field should go unused today.
But it will. The Boshamer scoreboard is shut off. Stadium parking lots on the back side of the complex are empty. A female deer, unbothered, scans the edge of the woods, feet away from concrete. A bird sits perched on the black fence surrounding the stadium. The Bosh Pit grill is closed, its $3 jumbo hot dogs unavailable.
The UNC baseball team hasn’t taken the field in two and a half months, and it won’t until February of next year at the earliest. Despite the promise coming into the 2020 season, the Tar Heels got off to a slow start, dropping two of three games to Dallas Baptist and getting swept by Notre Dame in Chapel Hill. Still, there was plenty of time. Time for a mid-season turnaround, then a run at a third straight Super Regional appearance. Time to capture that elusive first-ever College World Series title.
They won’t get their chance. Aaron Sabato, Danny Serretti and Joey Lancellotti won’t get their chance. Mike Fox won’t get his chance. Thousands of fans piling into Boshamer Stadium won’t get their chance.
The rest of the college baseball world won’t get its chance, either. This spring, the green fields of the mind are closed.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.