As a former, and by former, I mean ancient, youth, middle and high school, as well as college and adult, athlete, my heart figuratively bleeds for youngsters who must stay close to home, unable to attend school, hang with friends and play beloved organized — and self-organized — sports.

The frustrating and scary situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic — experiences lost and life-long memories never made — saddens me beyond belief.

The world for athletes of all ages has been turned upside down. Fun and games have been put on hold and, for that, a generation of positive sports experiences, if only from a seemingly short period of time in the grand scheme of a life span, lost.

From the youngest to oldest, youth to college athletes, the new norm is not so normal. And that makes me sad. Children cannot be children and, in many cases, may not be able to process what is going on in the world and why it affects them in such a profound, personal way.

They have lost a small, but important, part of their youths, albeit, hopefully, for just a few months. But it will be months they can never get back. Potentially life-altering and never forgotten experiences never replaced. Chapters of glory days lost.

I realize these are small prices to pay when there is so much financial ruin, health challenges and death attributed to this virus — as well as the fact many adults are simply trying to figure out how to feed their children and pay their bills — but, on some level, it still hurts. My 60-year-old body cannot do what it used to, but my 10-year-old heart certainly can relate to what young athletes must feel. What they are missing.

For our children, joy, wonder and hope have been replaced by uncertainty, fear and helplessness. The later difficult, stressful feelings that, in my book, children should not have to face until they are older.

While most athletes will adapt and bounce back with their sports lives, using this as a bump in the road to greater achievements and experiences, some will not, most notably the Little Leaguers in their final years (if Little League does not come back in the next few weeks) or high school/college seniors, who had worked so hard for so many years — done all the right things — to reach perhaps the pinnacle of their school teams only to be denied a final chapter.

All lost because of a seemingly invisible, insidious enemy scientists and doctors continue to work tirelessly to try to fully understand.

In this current environment, I think back to my youth and wonder just how I would react or feel if my mother told me I had to stay in the house or in the backyard, that I could not gather with friends for pickup baseball games at the now gone North School in Rockland or walk a few feet up Rankin Street to play basketball at Dan Lacrosse's awesome court or walk through someone's yard to play home run derby in the church parking lot next to Don Pietroski's house on Court Street?

If I was told I could not go out in the backyard to play tag with my buddies (our creepy weeping willow tree was home base), play catch with my brother, Scott Ingraham, marbles with my buddy, David Bates, or ride my bicycle around town with good friend, Ron Belyea, I would throw my hands up and wonder: "Why?"

And I would be sad, angry and wonder were the adults crazy and why were they messing with my childhood? My daily periods of wonder, growing, exploration? My existence. My life — the most important thing in the universe.

I would wonder why the adults who supposedly loved me were so mean?

What, I cannot go to the woods below the Woosters' house to shoot my BB gun? What do you mean I cannot go hung out with Charlie Brown?

I wonder what it would have been like if someone had taken from me a season of youth, middle school, high school, summer or college sports? Depending on the timing of such a pandemic it might have changed who I am and what I ended up doing for a career.

It may have meant I never would have won youth basketball, Little League or Babe Ruth baseball championships, played in all-star games with and against children from other Maine communities, experienced a memorable 1-0 victory against host Cony of Augusta, the defending state Class A champion, in high school baseball, and, more importantly, discovered a passion for cross-country running and appreciation for beloved Tiger coach Gary Davis.

It may have meant I never experienced a buzzer-beating, three-quarter court heave shot that went through the net during a freshman basketball game in the now Oceanside High School gymnasium, scoring a career-high 27 points in a jayvee hoop game against Brewer, being captain of my college baseball squad and playing my beloved diamond games all over New England or missing out on the wonderful camaraderie created in the moments of each of those periods of my life and forging longtime friendships through sports.

Those are things that, in profound ways, define me and have given me lasting memories, friendships and talking points with so many wonderful people. Surely, those experiences have been lost by so many, especially high school and college seniors who will never realize one final season.

I understand, in these times, people can stay connected virtually and through social media, but that is not the same as seeing someone face-to-face, working through conflicts as children, hugging a teammate, giving a high-five for a job well done or simply experiencing something in real time with other human being at the same part of life. Living in a moment that results in tangible experiences.

In retrospect, it is this strange, unprecedented time young athletes will remember for the rest of their lives, for personal lessons learned about sacrificing for ones self and the greater good of others, but certainly not a time to look back on for positive sports experiences stockpiled for future reflection.

For now, potentially life-altering sports experiences have been lost to time — a weird, unbelievable and utterly surreal time before they all get back in the game.