Devon Clinkscales: “My hopes of college baseball are now over because of the pandemic”

For our 21st Century Plague project, we spoke with 17 Georgians about the toll of COVID-19.

21st Century Plague: Coronavirus in Atlanta
Devon Clinkscales: “I’m scared about what I’m going to do after I graduate.”

Photograph by Audra Melton

For our 21st Century Plague project, we spoke with 17 Georgians about the toll of COVID-19. Below, Devon Clinkscales—a senior at Booker T. Washington High School who is enrolled in L.E.A.D., a nonprofit that uses baseball to empower at-risk youths to overcome crime, poverty, and racism—describes how his family is coping while losing income and his uncertainty about the future. (Clinkscales was interviewed on March 14.)

This year was my senior season of high school baseball, my last year. I was really excited about going out strong and getting ready for travel ball. It was my best opportunity to get some scouting. My hopes of college baseball are now over because of the pandemic.

On March 2, we were evicted from our apartment, but they didn’t change the locks. If they’d changed the locks, we’d have nowhere to go. Our stuff would be out on the street. My dad and my mother had a couple of disagreements on how to maintain. I have an older sister who has an apartment in a project, so my mother, my other sister, and my niece all moved in with her. But I stayed with my dad. He didn’t finish high school. He needs someone. He doesn’t understand how things work. I love my dad, and I have to be with him.

It’s hard for my parents to go grocery shopping after they get off work because everything’s closed. We’ve been eating McDonald’s. That’s the only thing that stays open. And Walgreens.

My mom is stressing and worrying about what we’re going to do. She is part of a housecleaning business, but people haven’t been allowing them into their homes because of precautions. My dad works in building services for a hotel, and his income has been dropping. Because of the pandemic, baseball has been cancelled, five games in. Colleges aren’t recruiting. Some schools aren’t even accepting students.

I don’t have money to pay for college on my own. Scholarships have been taken away. I’ve been thinking about starting a business. I have always wanted to own a sports bar. Now, I’m scared about what I’m going to do after I graduate. I was working hard, doing extra-curricular activities, filling out scholarship applications, playing sports, trying to do something better for my family. And it all got taken away because of the virus. I’m not getting a fair opportunity to change something.

I have online classes. Some days teachers have video conferences. I’m doing it from my phone and using a hot spot from my dad’s phone. Coach CJ [Stewart] says my school is offering me a new computer. On Monday, he’s going to give me a ride to my school so I can pick up the computer from one of my teachers.

My last game was an away game against Therrell. I went there my freshman year before I went to Washington, so every time we play them, I just gotta show up. I went 3 for 4. My first at bat was a sac fly, and I earned an RBI. My second at bat, I grounded out. My third at bat I hit a double on an 0-2 count. I was playing third base that game, so I was on their side, and they were talking trash to me from the dugout. Then I hit a homerun to left center field, into the trees. I was talking trash as I rounded the bases, then I jumped on home plate. It was amazing. Everybody was going crazy. I watch the video a lot when I get sad about my situation.

I pray every day and give God thanks for everything. I never look at the negative. Although I’m in a really hard situation, I have the right people to help me. I have a platform where I can advocate for other teens who don’t have what I have. A lot of people in my situation don’t have anyone at all.

Interview edited for length and clarity.