Missing Out On 'Special Time' Of High School - Part One
May 4, 2020
To view each of the parts to the No Spring Baseball, click below:
Missing Out On "Special Time" Of High School - Part One
PART ONE: The following is the first of an in-depth five-part story looking at the cancellation of the 2020 high school baseball season in New England.
With states all across the country announcing the cancellation of the 2020 high school sports season due to COVID-19, it comes as no surprise that those in New England are following suit. There will be no campaign in the six states of the northeast, though Connecticut, which has cancelled state and league tournaments, is still entertaining the possibility of having baseball through the month of June.
“I’m still hopeful we can figure something out just to put the boys in uniform at least once, especially for the seniors,” said Westhill, Ct., head coach Mike Riveles.
But the only certainty is that the coronavirus is hitting home when it comes to high school baseball.
“We said that we would hold a spring season if we returned to school,” said Rhode Island Principals’ Committee on Athletics Chairman and Cranston High School East principal Sean Kelly. “Throughout this process, we have followed the guidelines set forth by Governor Gina Raimondo, the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Rhode Island Department of Education and our Superintendents. We are going to continue to do so. We are a school-based athletic program; therefore, if we do not return to school, we cannot return to sports.
“This is obviously devastating for everyone,” Kelly continued. “It is devastating to all the student athletes, especially the seniors who have been waiting for their final high school season. It is devastating to all the schools. It is devastating to all of our communities. It is devastating to everyone. We do not take this decision lightly. It’s awful. There’s no other way to put it.”
It was the same in other states in the northeast with the first cancellation coming from Maine back on April 9 Massachusetts followed Rhode Island’s decision with a formal announcement back on April 24, three days after Governor Charlie Baker said that schools would remain closed through the end of the academic year.
“In the midst of the big picture, high school baseball is a small thing,” explained Charlie Eppinger, head coach of St. John’s Shrewsbury in Massachusetts. “But it definitely was sad to lose the season. The hardest part is not being able to see the seniors finish their St. John’s careers. Many will go on to play college baseball, but I think of all of the collegiate and even professional players that have come back to see us... they always remark how special high school baseball was.”
One final season of high school ball was highly anticipated by Jack Ambrosino of South Burlington, Vt., which was the last state in the northeast to announce there would be no high school season making it official on Thursday.
“The most disappointing part about not getting to have a spring sports season would have to be the opportunity to go out and play baseball with my boys one last time,” pointed out the 69th-ranked senior in New England. “I grew up in a small town in a small state and I have been playing with some of the same guys ever since Little League. We are a very tight-knit group, we started playing All-Stars together around the age of nine and most of us are still playing. It is definitely a missed chance to go out and represent our town one last time.”
Tim Albertson led Champlain Valley to the Division I state title in Vermont last season, the fourth baseball championship ever at the school and first since 2013.
“I feel terrible for the 10 returning seniors on my team, but even the seniors on all the teams across the state,” noted the 12th-year head coach. “The final season/moments of potentially your athletic career are taken away. They will miss out on joys of team building and bonding that goes on throughout the season with your team.
“For me, this was a great senior class that has accomplished so much over the last four years. Some have accomplished championships from Little League through high school and it’s tough to not see them get the opportunity to work together one more season. It's sad to not get the opportunity to coach them one more time. They’re a great group of young men.”
Without a doubt, senior year of high school athletics is special. That was the anticipation for players like Ambrosino as well as Jake Neuman of Southington, Ct.
“The most disappointing part of all of this is that I was truly excited to have one last ride with the boys that I have been playing with since Little League,” noted Neuman, a signee with Central Connecticut State. “With losing in the state championship game last year, we had a vengeance this year. But now we won’t get that shot to win and it is just very disappointing.”
Ryan Meyer has the same feeling at Shrewsbury, losing 5-3 to Tounton in last year’s Massachusetts Division I finals.
“Not being able to go back to the state finals and get that second chance is heartbreaking,” admitted Meyer, a Fordham commit. “Our team this year was arguably better than the team we had last year, and not being able to show that and give Shrewsbury baseball their first state championship is so saddening.
“There were so many moments in that game that if they went our way we would’ve been on top. These moments still haunt me today, and now we don’t even have the chance to correct them. That run we made last year gave me some of the best memories of my life, and now I only have one more chance to remake them.”
Others never made it to the championship game but were hoping that would be the case in their final year of high school baseball.
“As a senior this is brutal because your last spring in high school ball is when you have been playing with your best friends the longest and supposed to get that last season to leave your mark on the senior class we were,” explained Belmont Hill, Ma., left-handed pitcher Will McFadden.
There are goals that will not be reached.
“The most disappointing part of not getting to play this spring is not getting the opportunity to try and go back to back with ISL titles,” McFadden said.
Neuman is on the same page when it comes to the difficulty of missing out on his final campaign on the high school field at Southington.
“Being a senior for this makes it a lot worse,” Neuman noted. “Senior season is a very special time and to have that taken away is very tough. For some, they’ve played their last baseball game ever and that’s definitely a hard pill to swallow.”
Ambrosino agrees wholeheartedly.
“This is definitely worse as a senior,” Ambrosino said. “It’s hard to know that you won’t be able to represent your school colors one last time, or even walk across a stage and receive a diploma. I’m fortunate that my baseball career is not over, but I feel for the guys who are not going on to continue playing in college. This was their last shot on the field. It’s one last chance to put forth all the energy and effort into a program that you’ve been devoted to during high school to see if you can bring home a state championship to your school. That’s everyone’s childhood dream.”
Juniors also understand the sorrow that not playing this spring brings.
“The most disappointing part about not having a spring season is not being able to be out on the field with all of my friends, having fun, playing baseball, and competing with one another,” pointed out Matthew Garbowski of New Fairfield, Ct.
The chance to make a statement on the field is going to be missed.
“The most disappointing part of not having a spring season is just the absence of being able to compete,” pointed out Tyler Mudd, an uncommitted junior at Deerfield Academy, Ma. “It’s also tough knowing you’ll never get to play with the same group of guys again ... and you definitely feel for the seniors.”
Henry Hersum of Prout School, R.I., another uncommitted like Mudd, is in the same boat.
“The most disappointing part of not getting a final spring season is not being able to showcase all the hard work I put in this off season,” Hersum explained. “While the hard work didn't really go to waste, I know I was going to have a ton of fun dominating on the mound this spring and winning games with my teammates.
“While I am currently a senior, I have reclassified to 2021 to do a post graduate year at Combine Academy next fall. At first, I never really felt much of an impact when first hearing the season would be delayed until May, but once the day of our scheduled baseball senior banquet came and went, it kind of hit me like … man, I won't be able to get that back. It’s something I’d been looking forward to for the past year.
“I think as an underclassmen you're always thinking about how awesome the seniors were as leaders, and how they set precedents in our program,” Hersum continued. “You only get one senior night, or one senior season, and it would have been really cool to play for my phenomenal coaches and school one last season, as well as strive for a championship.”
Sam Kornet, an uncommitted junior at Medfield, Ma., feels for his senior teammates.
“I hate seeing this for the seniors,” said the 6-5 215-pound first baseman. “It’s tough seeing them go through this. We have one starting pitcher (Ryan Donahue) who has been working out so hard this offseason. He was starting to get some looks and it was exciting to watch him.”AHEAD: Part two of this story will look at the difficulty put upon coaches and how the ordeal is being dealt with across the New England states.