Restrictions related to the coronavirus have given athletes at all levels plenty of extra free time while they can’t gather to play sports.

Naturally, many have turned to another popular competitive outlet — video games. ESPN televised the NBA 2K20 Players Tournament which was won by the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker, while Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell reigned in the MLB The Show event.

The top auto racing tours also hosted virtual races before returning to actual tracks.

Area high school athletes also have picked up the controllers.

Selah pitcher Wyatt Berriman said he’s probably tripled the amount of time he spends playing games like Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite, The Show, Madden and 2K20 on his Playstation4.

Caden Herbst, another pitcher for the defending Class 2A champs, said he generally plays The Show on his own, but he’ll also play with or against teammates, including Nate Gutierrez and Chase Ergeson.

La Salle basketball’s Malachy Caffrey goes online to join West Valley’s Hayden Groth and Conner Turner, the 7-foot-1 center who Caffrey said dishes out the best trash talk during games of 2K and Call of Duty.

“It’s getting pretty serious,” said Caffrey, who would have played tennis in the spring. “Sometimes we get mad at each other when we’re doing dumb things.”

Prosser’s Haden Hicks, who had planned on vying for a 2A high jump title after finishing fourth last May, enjoys challenging some of his classmates in Madden. He said games can become competitive against Eric Martinez, the center for Prosser football, and Donald Olmstead, a Mustang golfer who Hicks said owns the highest Madden rating.

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Zillah’s Weston Ide maintains the top spot in the Madden hierarchy among his group of friends, which includes Leopards teammates Clay Delp and Ben Kibbe, along with Davis’ Earl Lee III. Ide, who committed to Blue Mountain Community College last month, claims he’s never lost a game against his friends and has spent plenty of time watching professional gamers, wondering if that’s a career path he could pursue.

Ide and Wapato’s Ramiro Campos both agreed video games don’t elicit the intensity and adrenaline rush of real-life sports, although Campos can see how that might change at the highest levels of esports with commentators, fans and prizes worth millions of dollars. Of course, even many esports leagues canceled or postponed events due to the coronavirus, while some simply moved online.

Campos, a sprinter and basketball player for the Wolves, played video games long before he considered himself an athlete. The future UW student planning to go into Psychology enjoys games like Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War and Army of Two, noting they’ve always provided a valuable avenue of competition, even when sports weren’t a big part of his life.

“I try to play with friends as much as I can,” Campos said. “We try to compete for who has the most kills compared to death ratio. We’re all pretty competitive and we’re all pretty skilled.”

Sunnyside sprinter and defensive back Julian Sandoval said it’s a good way to build chemistry with teammates including Jonathan Sanchez and Mike Rivera, who took fourth a year ago in the 4A 100 meter dash and accepted a preferred walk-on invitation to Eastern Washington. Selah distance runner Cooper Quigley also prefers playing with friends on his Xbox, usually Call of Duty or NBA 2K.

“It’s definitely not as competitive as actually being on the court,” said Quigley, a starter on the Vikings team that reached the state tournament in March. “It’s really fun playing with your friends.”

That game’s online mode allows users to create a player for 3v3 or 5v5 games and increase his skill level on a rating scale from 60 to 99. Naches Valley midfielder Nick Mueller, a junior who’s on track to earn an associate degree from Yakima Valley College when he graduates high school, said he’s raised three created players to 94 ratings, and Caffrey’s developed a 99.

East Valley basketball’s Jace Durand prefers to play on a more casual basis with his friends, including teammate Kaleb Thorson. Online victories aren’t quite the same as knocking off a CWAC opponent, but it still feels good to win.

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