The waiting game

Athletes’ final seasons, possible college recruitment in jeopardy

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For high school students, their senior year is supposed to be the best year of them all because the hard classes are out of the way, college is on the horizon and it’s the last chance to suit up for the hometown team alongside the friends they’ve grown up with.

The recent coronavirus outbreak has put a major damper on things, shutting down just about everything normal.

“This is not at all how I expected any of 2020 to go,” said senior football and baseball player Carter Cryan. “We’ve been waiting for a while to get to play and now this virus has just kind of shut everything down.”

“It's indescribable really because nobody envisioned it,” said a teammate from both teams, Garrett Redden. “It's just one of those things that’s unfortunate but we have to deal with it. Tough situation for everyone, including seniors whose seasons were cut short.”

After the state basketball tournament was suspended indefinitely on March 12, before the semifinals could even be finished, the rest of athletics were grouped into that same hiatus. The first announcement said no sports from March 16-29 but at the end of last week, the suspension was extended until May 4, putting the rest of many seasons in doubt.

The soccer regular season had only two games remaining on the schedule coming out of spring break and in a phone interview just an hour before the suspension extension was announced, Sealy girls’ soccer head coach Adrian Rocha was confident the senior soccer players and their families would be honored for their contributions.

“The last thing I told them was that we were going to find a way to honor our seniors,” he said. “But at this moment … we don't know if we're going to be able to play the last two games or if we're going to go straight into that first playoff game. (If we go right to playoffs), at least then they'd be able to have some satisfaction that their season will be done.

“Now if UIL says it's done, that they’re going to cancel the rest of the season,” Rocha continued, “then I'm really gonna have to find a motivational speech for them.”

He said that he planned on using this situation as a life lesson for the graduating members of his team who are soon to be entering the real world.

“Now we have to adjust we have to adjust our life,” Rocha said. “That's what I would tell them to motivate them, ‘I know it's not what you wanted for your senior but you're gonna look back on it and you'll be able to say this happened to us and we were able to learn from it and teach somebody.’

“It's all about life,” he continued. “I know I've been through situations where things happened and I told them that they're about to step into a new chapter of their life after graduating so hopefully it doesn't lead up to that, but you just have to be ready.”

On the baseball diamond, Dane Bennett’s squad is led by five seniors and he feels as though all of them – except for Redden who has already has plans to play junior college baseball next year – who don’t have a college commitment in place could miss out on some crucial recruiting now that baseballs aren’t being thrown.

“The negative side for the rest of the seniors is that they're not getting that exposure to colleges,” he said over the phone Thursday afternoon. “Like Carter Cryan, in my opinion, is a guy who can pitch at the next level, there's no question in my mind. He's a lefty that throws mid-80s has a good changeup and a good breaking ball. He hasn't had the same exposure that some of our guys in the past have had.”

Not only that, but a few of them were just starting to pick up steam after finding their name in the lineup consistently.

“Joseph Teague is a guy that has been solid for us in our program,” Bennett said. “He's been a leader for us, he struggled a little bit transitioning to first base but at the end of the tournament, he was one of our most consistent hitters and he was starting to turn the page and taking really good at-bats. He's not getting that exposure college-wise either.

“James Gassiott is another one and James Statham,” Bennett added. “Those two guys probably felt a little under looked the past couple of seasons but they both have fit into their roles really well this year. Statham is one of the most consistent guys that I (look to call) out of the bullpen, our defense will say they have a lot of trust in him when he's on the mound.”

At the end of the day, Rocha, like many coaches, will look to rely on the team’s bond to keep them close through these unsure times.

“We're just going to have to stick together,” he said. “We have a bond as a team, even though we’re so big, we still understand each other. We've gone through tough situations before and we pretty much have helped each other through it. So, I trust the girls to be understanding and that they will make the seniors feel that they accomplished something being a part of the program.”

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