HUNTINGTON — For professional baseball, COVID-19 is somewhat akin to a really long rain delay.
Former Marshall University All-American softball player and Hall of Famer Rachel Folden of the Chicago Cubs, however, used football terminology to describe what she’s experiencing during the shutdown of spring training.
“I’m so bored,” Folden said, with a laugh. “It’s like being the backup quarterback and waiting your turn to start, then when the chance comes the league goes on strike.”
On Nov. 25, the Cubs hired Folden as a lead hitting lab technician and coach for their rookie league affiliate in Mesa, Arizona. On the third day of spring training games, Major League Baseball canceled games.
“I was talking to another Cubs coach and it’s like we’re in mourning,” Folden said. “We love baseball, but this really does put things in perspective. When it comes to keeping people from spreading the virus to their grandparents and other older people and those with compromised immune systems, shutting things down is the right thing. I’m really proud at how much the United States is being proactive.”
Folden, 32, said she hopes to hear soon that at least some activities can take place, whether training in small groups, individually or otherwise. Until then, she said she will bide her time waiting for the season to start again.
Cubs players, Folden said, responded well to the former Thundering Herd star’s instruction.
“The players have been great,” said Folden, who doesn’t take long to convince hitters she knows what she’s doing. “They’re very receptive to male, female, old, young. We have a lot of young coaches. It makes no difference. It’s our job to make things that the players can understand. The goal is to play baseball and get better.”
A four-time All-American catcher at Marshall, the native of Baldwin Park, California, owns 15 of the program’s single-season or career records nearly 12 years after she graduated. A first-team All-Mid-American Conference pick in 2005 when she was named the league’s freshman of the year, Folden helped the Thundering Herd to the MAC regular-season title.
Folden was Conference USA’s Player of the Year as a sophomore and again in 2008. She was a first-team All-CUSA pick as a sophomore and repeated on the first team in 2007 and 2008. She went on to a five-year pro softball career with the Chicago Bandits and Carolina Diamonds.
She said she feels for Marshall’s current players, who have seen their season canceled, along with all of college softball and baseball. Folden said she loves watching power hitters Mya Stevenson, Aly Harrell and others who remind her of herself.
“I have a great time watching them hit bombs,” Folden said. “[Herd coach Megan Smith] is doing a great job. If feel for them, especially the seniors. It’s a little scary for the landscape of college baseball and softball, as to how they’re going to handle this.”
Folden, who still operates Folden Fastpitch in Indiana, meanwhile keeps busy in Mesa, waiting for baseball to resume so she can continue to make history.