Leesburg, Va. — I was raking the first base area after a playoff game against our crosstown rival during my senior year at Heritage. We had just beaten Loudoun County, ending the season and careers for a really strong group of seniors and some of my best friends. As I was raking, one of those friends approached—his shirt disheveled, his emotions on his sleeve. As a senior, it was the last time he’d play baseball competitively in our community. I dropped the rake, we talked, and then we embraced. As this happened, two more of my longtime friends and travel ball teammates approached. All four of us laughed, knowing it was the end of a great ride together.
I, however, still had time left.
I’ll never forget how emotional and impactful that post game huddle at first base was. It wasn’t all sad, more nostalgic, all of us looking back at the memories we created over the years, something that could never be taken away from us.
What drove the intensity of the moment was the fact all four of us were seniors. The realization hit us like a mack truck, that we had just finished the home stretch of our four-year high school careers, we were preparing to graduate, and we were heading to different colleges in the fall.
That moment, those emotions, and those memories will stick with me forever, but they’re also something the student-athletes in the Class of 2020 won’t get to experience, their senior seasons ended before they even started. While we must maintain social distancing and community care practices to protect ourselves and those around us, we can always remember the memories we made with teammates, coaches, opponents, and friends.
To the seniors’ parents, know that the leaders you’ve helped groom have bright futures both in and out of sports. Celebrate the accomplishments of their pasts and look forward to what’s to come.
To my fellow coaches, I know how much work you put in behind the scenes to give your student-athletes the best season you could this spring. Those hours put in before and after practice and games are under appreciated but know they are not unnoticed. Let us all celebrate our seniors in whatever creative ways we can. Post about them on social media, and if all this clears up this summer, consider hosting a modified senior night once your facilities open back up.
To the seniors, this is hard. The years of hard work, sweat, and passion ripped out from underneath of you. I cannot begin to imagine what you’re feeling. Remember though, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
To those whose athletic careers just came to an abrupt end, look back, reflect on your experiences, and decide how you are going to mold your future. If sports are something you’re passionate about there are hundreds of ways to stay involved in athletics even after your playing days have ended.
To those going on to compete at the college level, there will be a time when you long for early morning runs, afternoon lifts, and late night bus rides. They might suck in the moment, but, speaking from experience, I can tell you, you’ll want to spike up again.
To the community, let’s stay vigilant and proactive in our efforts to slow the spread of this virus. Let’s wash our hands, let’s practice social distancing, and, most importantly, let’s not take anything for granted.
Big O, out.