Health Professional Eric Mertl Balances COVID-19 Testing and America’s Pastime in Indiana

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Eric Mertl and his wife both work in the medical profession in Indiana, while Eric plays in the Indiana Baseball League in Indianapolis.  Eric works seven day shifts as his lab is busily trying to increase COVID-19 testing abilities in hospital labs, nursing homes and other health agencies.  His wife is a nurse practitioner and must now deal with a ‘virtual’ visit as opposed to face to face.  Eric put together a wonderful synopsis of life in the medical profession as well as what it means to him and his family to be forced to take a break from our national pastime.

My name is Eric Mertl.  I grew up in Michigan City, Indiana and played college ball at Valparaiso University and St. Andrews College.  I currently live in Brownsburg, Indiana.  I am a member of the Indiana Baseball League in Indianapolis and play in the 35+ (Rangers) and 45+ (Braves) divisions.  2020 will HOPEFULLY be my 20th season in the league.

I am in a very unique position with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I work in outreach for the Indiana University Health Pathology Laboratory.  My main focus at our lab is to work with new and existing clients, such as hospital labs, nursing homes, health agencies, etc., to obtain COVID-19 testing for their communities.  I am setting up new clients every single day and monitoring results as testing increases across the state.  My job is suddenly seven days a week as we keep up with the demand.  My wife is a Nurse Practitioner in a family practice, and is now relegated to seeing patients virtually to limit interpersonal contact.  I am extremely proud of the work that both of us and our colleagues in healthcare are doing right now. 

I am fortunate that my family is well and has not been physically affected by COVID-19.  Of course, we can’t do the things to which we are accustomed.  No dinners out.  No movies.  No concerts.  No parties.  That said, what has hit my family hardest is the loss of my son Riley’s senior season of baseball.  Fortunately, he has a scholarship to pitch at Frontier CC in Illinois next year.  2020 was not to be his last season.  But it still hurts him and leaves a huge hole in my heart as a father to not be at a ballpark watching him and his teammates compete this spring, particularly as his team was poised to make a big run at the state title this year.

I am keeping engaged with baseball by trying to catch bullpens for my son as much as I can and taking soft toss with a neighbor, who is another high school player.  I am also watching a ton of old baseball games on Marquee Sports Network (Cubs new channel) and ESPN.  I don’t care if it is a “classic” game or just a random Tuesday night matchup.  It keeps the glimmer of hope alive that we will have a season in 2020.

Like many other guys around the country in the MSBL, I miss watching professional, college, and high school baseball.  Even though my league isn’t supposed to start until June, I miss my teammates.  I miss the umpires (some).  I miss competing.  At this time of year, I’m usually thinking that it’s time to step up preparations for playing two nights per week.  This year I have to ponder that my season might be delayed or even cancelled. 

In 2020 there may be no Advil cocktails.  No forgetting to pack stirrups for the night’s game as I leave for work in the morning.  No soreness the days after the first few games.  No stories and lies being told in the dugout or at a pub/restaurant after the games.  No laughing at each other for that play we didn’t make.  There might just be…no baseball.  And it hurts.  But in the grand scheme of things, it could be worse and I am thankful that it is not.

I hope that there will be baseball for all of us in the MSBL.  I hope that we will have a MSBL World Series this year.  If there is, I will be there.  With all of my equipment. With Advil.  Telling stories and lies.  Laughing at a teammate for falling prey to a sniper while heroically trying to leg out a triple.  And loving every single minute of it.  God bless baseball!