The Last High School Game

I’m writing this on April 2., 2020. I don’t know when I’ll post it, but I wanted to record what I’m feeling now.

Yesterday, on April 1, Governor Kemp announced that classes in Georgia public schools would be online for the remainder of the year. Given the day, I was hoping it was a poor April Fool’s joke when the news started spreading but turning on the TV convinced me it was real. My high school senior was losing the remainder of high school. It was over.

Technically, he had checked out already. Senioritis. The only thing he cared about, by his own admission, was baseball. As a junior, he had been cut by the varsity coach. He could have given up, but he chose to keep at it. He worked hard and made the team his senior year. He was the only junior cut to try again. He tried because he wanted to play with this team. He always did.

My son’s high school is the largest in Georgia. With nearly 1000 kids per grade, tryouts are competitive. However, there was a concentration of baseball talent in my son’s academic year, almost like a statistical anomaly. Varsity hopefuls in my son’s class transferred to five other districts. Before high school, I offered my son the same option. He said no. This was his district and his friends. He wanted to play 9th grade and JV baseball here. He wanted to finish here and take his chances.

He made the team as a pitcher. Despite being cut his junior year, he still received an offer from a D-II school in West Virginia and interest from D-II and D-III schools in NY, NJ, and PA, but the trip to West Virginia made him realize he wanted to be closer to home. He eventually decided on Auburn. An Auburn fan from birth, it was the only thing he loved as much, if not more, than baseball. With baseball, he could be happy in many places. Without baseball, the only place he could be happy is Auburn.

With Auburn, though, he knows the likelihood of baseball is slim, so he knew that his senior season might be his last. It began well. The team reached a #1 ranking in the state and a #4 ranking nationwide on MaxPreps in March. Then, the virus sidelined everything. There was hope that a shortened season might be resurrected. The governor’s announcement nullified that.

So, on the day the season was done, a chat message went out among the team. Fifteen kids showed up at the school, climbed the fence, and played one last game until it got dark.

In the movie Moneyball, the narration talks about Billy Beane always trying to win his last game. My son was hoping, if baseball ended for him this year, his last game might be a championship. But his last game may just be with fourteen of his buddies, the kids he had wanted to take a risk to play with. Together they had lost a season. But for a night in April, they could win their last game together.

My son is still working on baseball. He lifts weights 5-6 days per week at the gym and throws with me at the park around three days a week. One of his friends has been telling him that he needs to try to walk on Auburn. My son says he wants to play club ball for a year and then try. I don’t know what will happen. I’ll be proud of him for whatever he does.

And though I wasn’t there to watch, I’ll always remember his last high school game.

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