The spring 2020 athletic season has featured no shortage of changes compared to a normal year, with the current COVID-19 pandemic wiping out a large swath of baseball and softball season, along with a litany of other sports.
However, one constant through all the uncertainty surrounding the sports world has persevered; coaches’ dedication to their players, a sentiment touched on by several Parker County high school baseball coaches while discussing their teams’ lost year.
“I feel so bad for these kids,” Weatherford Kangaroos’ Head Baseball Coach Jason Lee said.
“They put in so much hard work and dedication all year long. Most of these guys stay and work until 5 or 5:30 p.m. everyday starting in August through January to prepare for the season. Then they have the season they worked toward get cut short.
“You only get four years and they just lost one of those years. It is heartbreaking.”
While student athletes often cite coaches, both past and present for positively impacting their individual lives, that feeling is mutual, Lee said, highlighting the bonds he has built over countless hours of practice, bus rides and on game day with his players, something now sadly missing.
“I miss the baseball, the practices and games, but the part I miss the most is building the relationships and bonds that we build with each other throughout a season,” Lee said.
“There is nothing better than going and competing, winning a big series or playoff game with a bunch of guys you have bonded with and truly love.”
It is a sentiment shared by Brock Eagles’ Head Baseball Coach Hart Hering, who said the little moments and interactions with his players day to day have proven one of his favorite aspects of his job.
“Honestly, I miss the locker room jokes and dugout banter and just seeing them interact and the smiles on their faces,” Hering said.
“Baseball is meant to be fun, and watching them get ready before a game and staying loose is one of my favorite parts of coaching.”
The absence of such exchanges between player and coach, as well as an inability to put those months of hard work during offseason to the test has made for a trying experience, Aledo Bearcats’ Head Baseball Coach Chad Barry said.
“Not being able to be with my team each day has been really frustrating,” Barry said.
“I really miss them and miss working with them each day. What I miss the most is being able to see this team not have a chance to prove to everyone how good they really were. They had worked so hard in the summer and offseason.
“Not getting to watch them make a really deep playoff run is really disappointing.”
This week would have marked the start of the bi-district round of playoffs for high school baseball, an opportunity Weatherford, Aledo and Brock’s squads would have all likely been a part of, considering each was a 2019 playoff team.
Now in May with no chance of reaching that benchmark in 2020 has proven an equally surreal and disheartening experience, Lee said.
“I do not like thinking about inventory and taking up equipment this early in the year,” Lee said.
“I would much rather be preparing for some big district game and hopefully making a playoff run.”
However, that is not to say the challenging times at hand have been without glimmers of hope, Hering said.
“It’s a tough situation, [but] we try to find the positives and silver linings,” Hering said.
“It’s the hand that we were dealt, and I’m trying to make sure the players know, these are the times of adversity that coaches are always trying to prepare them to handle, whether it be in baseball or life.
“These unprecedented times have taught me a lot as a coach. Patience is one of those. Being forced to slow down and reflect on things that are really important. This has also obviously taught all of us that you don’t really know what tomorrow holds.
“Be grateful for what you have, because nothing is guaranteed. You never know when your last game will be, and that’s why you leave it all on the field each time you get the opportunity.”
With that in mind, all three above Parker County coaches expressed hope for the day baseball does return.
“I look forward to the day we can get back to normal and begin baseball,” Lee said.
“It will be a little bittersweet because it will be a different group. I think the worst thing about this is we really never had any closure to the season.
“The seniors had no idea the last game we played would be their last as a Kangaroo. I hope that with all that has gone on, that none of us will ever take things for granted.
“When we come back, we need to be in the moment and take advantage of our opportunities.”
Barry echoed Lee’s comments, while adding that future squads will have great role models to look to in the form of this year’s senior class.
“I’m looking forward to when baseball does start up again,” Barry said.
“I think the quote, ‘Play like it’s your last game’ will carry a lot more clout than in years past. When we do take the field again, I would hope that our returning players would pattern themselves after the seniors of 2020.
“These seniors are really talented, but they also worked extremely hard every day and put in a lot of extra time on their own outside of practice. They set a standard of greatness for others to follow.”
Hering effectively summed up the trio of coaches’ feelings toward the future.
“I can’t wait until next year when we can get the boys together and rejoin as a baseball family again,” Hering said.