In the aftermath of the new coronavirus pandemic shutdowns, Brazos High School continued honoring its senior spring student-athletes on the diamond by honoring the 10 senior baseball players last Tuesday evening after the lone softball senior was honored April 14.
Each graduating member of the team had their number and name called to bat one last time on the field that was dolled up and supposed to be hosting the Fayetteville Lions for the Cougars’ final home game of the regular season.
Instead, the lights were turned on for 20 minutes and 20 seconds and each of the seniors’ numbers were painted in the home plate circle honoring the first group of players head coach Bradley Norris had been with for all four years.
Making up the Brazos baseball players in the Class of 2020 were Malcolm Toles, Kody Ressler, Nick Oliver, Kaden Kneip, Connor Macha, Kolton Marek, August Hale, Ray Valdez, Julio Reyes and Brandon Maldonado.
The Cougars clinched a playoff spot the previous two years after failing to make the postseason since 2010, although they were swept in both best-of-three series. Norris said he would have been intrigued to see if this class not only could have kept a playoff streak alive but also snap a winless streak.
“It had been close to ten years before we made the playoffs (in 2018),” Norris said. “I wish we could have (played) this year because I thought we could have won a playoff game this year and I thought that would have been big.”
Norris said before the April 28 ceremony that although his coaching career started in Sealy and he created relationships with that senior class when they were in junior high school, his time at Brazos High School coincided with this year’s senior class as well and he said he got to learn a lot from this group over the last four years.
“I know some of them are probably sad and disappointed but these are strong, mentally tough kids that I know are ready to move onto the next chapter of their lives and I guess it’s good we’re not just waiting around until the end of the year, they kind of kept pushing it back,” Norris said. “We got closure, this is a good celebration for these guys. I developed a pretty good bond with them over the last four years and I’ll try to keep in touch best I can.”
Norris said that no matter what, this squad was always having fun but understood that when Norris was getting on them it was only to make them better.
“One thing with this group is that whether we were winning or losing, we were always having fun,” Norris said. “We always joked around and we always had that special bond. I could get on them but they understand I love them and care about them. I hope they’ve learned as much from me as I’ve learned from them.”
Kaden Kneip agreed this bunch was special and although his baseball career will be continuing at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie next year, this team will always rank highly in his mind.
“They’re a bunch of knuckleheads but I had a whole lot of fun with them,” Kneip said of his classmates. “It was probably one of the most fun teams I’ll ever be on.”
Kneip said he felt, if anything, the shutdowns enhanced the senior celebrations this year around but it’s always easy to bring a small-town, tight-knit community together.
“I feel like it was almost a bigger deal now than it would have been had nothing happened,” Kneip said. “Everybody’s been real supportive, I’ve got my whole family out here supporting me, the coaches all put a lot of work into this so I really feel the recognition. That’s part of the small-town pride is we’re all in it together.”
The group of 10 seniors will forever be linked together as the Brazos High School baseball team that didn’t get to finish its season due to a pandemic but Norris expects big things from them off the diamond and looks forward to the next crop of Cougar baseballers following in their footsteps.
“I know whatever they're going to do, they're going to be successful. This is a small thing in the big picture,” Norris said of the seniors. “These are great kids; they’ve always had a great bond; they’ve been willing to help out and they set the standard for the classes moving forward in this program.”