For a high school senior playing their final season of baseball could be filled with sentimental moments and reflection. For the 11 seniors who make up all but five spots on the Sealy Tigers’ varsity roster, the time for reflection will come after the season. For now, it’s about the state title.
“We just know that there are no more second chances and we can’t stop until it’s over and when that happens then we can think about those things,” Jared Kainer said.
Since they were freshmen, the varsity baseball team has made the playoffs every year with their deepest run happening last when the team won its district and advanced to the regional semifinals where they were swept. It is through these shared and painful experiences that have motivated this group of seniors put sentiments aside for the ultimate goal.
“Just having longer seasons the past couple of years has helped us grow together,” Chris Wright said. “I know I’ve made a lot of brothers on this team that I really value but we want to win it all if we’re going to be really happy with the season in the end.”
First-year head coach Dane Bennett said it is this competitive nature that has led to the team’s success this season and it was their experience that helped him establish success early on.
“Having seniors like that makes a difference for me because it means we’re battle tested so when things aren’t going well, they keep a level head which is huge,” Bennett said. “These guys have helped me so much by coming in bringing hard work and they embody what we preach which is attitude, effort and focus.”
Bennett said the group’s focus on winning a state title rather than focusing on the fact that this is their last season together shows their drive to win and embodies what the glue is in the bond among them, effort.
“These guys have had a goal from the start and that’s to get to the championship and that’s been their goal since they’ve been around 10 years old and they don’t want to think about the end until it’s actually there,” he said. “That’s the best way to be about it because you’re either all in or you’re worrying too much about the end being near and you can’t think of it that way.”
Even if the seniors don’t win state, they feel they have left a legacy of setting the precedent for the work ethic it will take to win it all in the future. A sentiment athletic director Shane Mobley echoed several weeks ago when he was talking about this year’s entire senior class buying in and laying the foundation for the culture he wants to bring into Sealy athletics.
“We try to take a leadership role with the younger guys because we want to set an example to set them so if we don’t go all the way, which we obviously do, we set them up to do better than us,” senior Rory Strong said. “So if in a couple years, if they go undefeated or win the title, we can look back and take pride in knowing that we helped get them there by teaching them early.”
Whether the seniors achieve their goal or fall short of it, they’re happy with the season or not, all agreed that the relationships they’ve formed over their years playing together are something they value. Senior Justin Eckhardt said it will be something they take with them past their high school years.
“This is probably the closest bond I’ve had with anybody because we’ve been playing since we were seven years old and we wanted to cherish every moment and we’ve become a lot closer this year knowing it was our last one and we know we’ll be friends for the rest of our lives.”