Prep Baseball Report

No 'Last Dance' For High School Seniors: Part Six

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer

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No 'Last Dance' For High School Seniors: Part Six

PART SIX: The following is the sixth of an in-depth six-part story looking at the 2020 high school baseball season in Ohio which was officially cancelled this week.

There is little more gratifying than when winter ends and spring emerges. While the weather in Ohio does not always cooperate, it is still exciting to know that baseball season is finally upon us.

Players, coaches, fans and parents everywhere have high expectations about what lies ahead. There are dreams and goals along with a strong passion that are all there as everyone looks forward with anticipation to what the season could bring. Just what will be accomplished?

In 2020, that is not the case. The finish to the season precedes the beginning.

It brings reflection followed by the need to look ahead. 


Tim SaundersThere is sadness for the players, sorrow for coaches, depression with some parents and loss of income for umpires. All were looking forward to another season on the ball diamond.

For Tim Saunders (photo credit), it was more than that. This was going to be the last hurrah for the Dublin Coffman head coach.

“It was not what I could have ever imagined,” admitted Saunders. “I thought Jerry Snodgrass (OHSAA) did a great job of not canceling the season too soon and giving us all hope, but once the news came it was like a punch in the gut. Reality set in ... then you figure it out. It’s time to move forward.”

It marks the end of a long coaching career for Saunders, who started out as an assistant coach at Portsmouth in 1981 with a team that finished 28-4 and reached the Class AA state finals before losing to Parma Holy Name, 3-2. He took over as head coach at Meigs from 1982-1985 and won league titles his last two years at the helm.

In 1986 and 1987, Saunders was an assistant at Indiana University with both squads finishing with identical records of 46-14.

“It was an awesome experience and I learned so much there as a coach,” Saunders reflected.

In 1988 he returned to the high-school ranks as the head coach at Dublin Coffman and has been there ever since.

“I feel good about what we’ve accomplished here at Coffman,” Saunders related. “I’ve met some of the greatest players and parents in the world and I’m so thankful for each of them in my life. Some say I’ve helped them, but to be truthful they’ve probably helped me more.

“This is a great community that has helped me every step of the way,” Saunders added. “I’m going to miss being on the field with the players and being in the field manicuring it and adding to it.”

Along the way were two trips to state in 2000 and 2001, with the ‘01 squad bringing home a Division I championship with a 6-0 victory over Maumee in the title game.

“We’ve had good players and good teams, but I was able to build a new field and continue to add things each year,” Saunders said of what stands out in his tenure at the school. “It’s not perfect but it’s nice. Over my 33 years here I was able to raise over $550,000 to make it what it is. Whoever the next coach is, he’s going to walk into a good situation.

“I’ve said it many times that I’m glad I did it once but I wouldn’t want to do it again. The second thing I say is it was a lot easier building it than it was to maintain it.”

Memories were certainly made before the cancellation of what was to be his final year as head coach.

“I knew I wanted to teach PE and coach since second grade,” Saunders said. “I’ve enjoyed coaching more than I enjoyed playing. Most people don’t get a chance to follow their dream, but mine came through and I landed in the best community in the country. God is good. I’ve sweated a lot at the field, but I feel like I’ve never really worked a day in my life.”


Jerry SnodgrassWith no 2020 season, there needs to be an understanding that every effort was made to make it happen.

“Throughout the closure Jerry Snodgrass (Executive Director, photo credit) and Emily Gates (Sport Manager) of the OHSAA did a great job of being transparent with their communication to all coaches through their press conferences and memos and their communication with our OHSBCA Board Members,” explained John Bakalar, president of the OHSBCA. “I appreciate that they did everything they could to keep the window of opportunity open as long as they did.

“Not everyone is going to agree with every decision they make, but there were some things out of their control and the health and safety of everyone involved was the most important aspect of any decision they made.”

Still, so many are left with a feeling of emptiness.

“As far as no senior campaign, that hurts,” admitted Isaiah Seidel. “I really think we had something special this year that now has turned into a ‘what if’ type of deal because of there being no season.

“Our goals were probably like a lot of people’s which was to win a district and go as far as we can, and I believe we had a legit shot to do so,” said the South Central senior, whose team lost in district play the past two seasons. “That makes it even more painful.”

The hurt hits home for many, like the Levi Gazarek family in North Baltimore.

“This has been tough on my whole family because this was always the best time of the school year,” Gazarek said. “Everyone in my family was involved with the sport. My younger brother Gabe is a player, my mom was at every game she could make and then my dad (Marty) being the head coach, and myself also playing on the team. It takes away from a whole season worth of memories that would have lasted a lifetime.” 

Caden KlineThe gut-wrenching feeling is especially felt for seniors whose playing days are coming to an end according to Caden Kline of Defiance.

“This is really about the seniors who don’t get to take that next step,” noted Kline, who will be a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the coming year. “I know I have more opportunities to play baseball and I’m very grateful for those, but the real guys who deserve another chance, another at bat, another pitch, are the guys who play their role and get things done knowing they are playing just for the pure joy of high school sports.”

It is what players across Ohio will miss.

“This is worse being a senior because I know that there won’t be any more chances to play with my teammates,” explained St. Edward’s Zach Maxey. “The seniors have worked so hard to get to this point and we believed that this was going to be our year. The last four years have been very special and it’s very unfortunate that it has to end this way.”


No high school season in 2020 has had a major impact on Prep Baseball Report in Ohio as well as PBR across the country.

The chance to watch players I’ve written stories about up close in action is always something to look forward to seeing. Witnessing the passion so many exhibit each and every season brings a realization of the importance high school athletics has in this world.

It also is a big deal when it comes to the baseball future of many high school athletes. Jordan Chiero, PBR Ohio Director of Scouting, sees a big impact when it comes to the Major League Draft.

“I think there is a bigger impact with that than there will be on recruiting,” Chiero noted. “Scouts more than ever will have to rely on previous information which is tough, but there really isn’t any other option.

“If I had to guess, I’d say the guys that were already considered ‘elite’ or ‘no doubt’ draft guys will be the ones selected. Every year, though, there are college and high school guys who use a strong spring to raise their draft stock. Those are the guys who will be affected the most in my opinion.”

As for summer baseball, Chiero has high hopes.

“If we do have a summer season I don’t really see much being affected,” the Ohio scouting director said. “In a ‘normal’ season, yes college coaches are out during spring games but they are also playing games during that time as well. The summer is when colleges send their full arsenal of coaches to scout. If and when we do have a summer, I expect college coaches to flood summer games and showcases. 

“At the end of the day, if we do play this summer, I just see the summer being more fast-paced and would expect the recruiting calendar to be back on track by the end of fall.”

Still, it does not stop fans all over Ohio as well as those here at Prep Baseball Report from agonizing over not getting the opportunity to witness the high school spring baseball season.

"I work within the baseball realm in some capacity 365 days a year, whether that is on the computer with articles, showcase results, graphics, uncommitted/committed stories and more," expressed Dylan Hefflinger, Editor in Chief/NW Ohio Scout. "If I'm not out helping run a showcase in the summer, fall and winter, I'm on the field in the summer at tournaments across Ohio/Michigan ... but my real joy comes from the spring high school baseball season,

"The passion I have for it, I can truly say, is second to NONE ... simply put, I love the high school baseball season. I put in work with preseason and during the season Team Rankings, preseason and postseason All-State Teams, weekly scout blogs with compilation videos for the week and much more. 

"Another thing I am always looking forward to are the new people I meet during my times at the field during the spring. I get to know the coaches better being in their dugout before, during and after games. I get to talk to parents and answer a lot of questions. I also get to know the players on a personal level and much more. I love all of that and, unfortunately for the spring of 2020, it is all gone."

It is a time for work as well as family camaraderie.

"I always look forward to spending time with my dad (Bruce Hefflinger, PBR Senior Writer) and whichever interns we have with us at the state tournament, the outstanding OHSAA staff and the ushers at the MiLB stadiums," Dylan said. "The interns that we have had over the past two years have been phenomenal and their futures are bright.

"As far as my dad and I getting to hang out and watch baseball, there is nothing better than that. Three straight days of four games each with 12-15 hours of 'work' is something I cherish. Putting together the All-22 Tournament Team, taking pictures of dog piles and trophy celebrations as well as the professional post-tournament hype videos are things I always look forward to each year. Sadly, all that is gone in 2020 and it truly has hit me hard.

"That said, the future is still going to be strong. Hopefully we get to have summer baseball where we get to go watch great talent at numerous tournaments, ACME/Legion games and of course our PBR showcases.

"To the Class of 2020 ... Stay strong! You guys have shown great character throughout this whole situation. Congrats on the upcoming graduations and good luck in all your future endeavors!"