Before every game, the team gets together and everyone high fives each other, which we call the “five finger discount.” This picture is from the state championship game, the last Huskie baseball game for both the 5 seniors and 12 juniors on the team. (Courtesy of PNHSbaseball.com)
Before every game, the team gets together and everyone high fives each other, which we call the “five finger discount.” This picture is from the state championship game, the last Huskie baseball game for both the 5 seniors and 12 juniors on the team.

Courtesy of PNHSbaseball.com

Saying goodbye to my senior season

April 6, 2020

In the second game of my junior year, I thought my season was over. It was early in the game against Lakeview, just a few days before we were set to leave for Florida for our first ever spring break trip as a team.

The batter floated a weak pop up into short right field. As soon as it was hit, I knew I was the only one who had a chance to catch it. I took off, my eyes never leaving the ball as I dove, extending my glove and snagging the ball just as it was about to drop in for a hit. What I didn’t know was that I wasn’t the only player trying to make that catch, and right as the ball landed in my glove, my face smashed directly into our first baseman Eli Caranci’s knee with the combined force of both of us giving our maximum effort.

I can’t really describe the pain. It was instant and blinding. One second there was nothing, and the next second it was all I could feel. Then something just as strong came up alongside it: fear. I was scared. Scared that my season was done. I was hysterical. As I sat in the backseat, I immediately threw up, and I tried as hard as I could to stay awake. I was terrified. I thought that there was no way I would play another game that season. I had never felt that kind of fear before, the fear that everything I had worked so hard for could be ripped away from me in one second.

After the collision, I couldn’t remember how many outs there were, what inning it was, if I had taken an at bat yet that game. I know now that there was a runner on second; but I only know that from watching the video days afterward. The thing I remember most vividly apart from making the catch is the song that was stuck in my head as I chased down the ball: New Level by A$AP Ferg.

At the hospital, I learned that I broke three bones in my face and suffered a concussion. When Eli’s knee hit my eye, it pushed backwards, causing three orbital fractures in my eye socket. I was lucky enough not to need surgery, and fortunately, the double vision healed itself in a week, and the blood that lingered in the whites of my eyes went away about a week after that.

I was basically in bubble wrap during spring break (no baseball, no swimming), but in less than 12 days, I was back on the field, wearing a lacrosse mask across my face. I didn’t miss a game. I was lucky.

But my injury was not the defining moment of the 2019 season. Not even close. When I remember last season, I never think of the mask, my eye, or the collision. I remember sitting next to the “rally pike” a seagull had dropped next to our dugout before a morning game against Lakeshore. I remember cheering with my teammates after winning super regionals just because we knew we still had practice the next day. I remember jumping into my teammate’s arms after winning the first state championship in school history.  I still think about that team and that season almost every day. It was an unbelievably special thing to be a part of. 

After the game, it felt like that season never ended. This wasn’t what I was used to the end of a season feeling like. At the end of my sophomore season, as I hugged my teammates with tears in my eyes after a heartbreaking loss, there was nothing to think about other than that the season was over. After the state championship, there was no forced stop, and with 13 seniors returning for this year’s team, it felt like there was nowhere to go but up. Our team culture was so close that it felt like we hadn’t grown apart at all, even months after our last game.

When tryouts finally came this spring, it felt like everything was becoming perfect. Even my life in school was better than it ever was. I loved coming to school every day, and not just because of baseball. I had been waiting months for what I knew would be the best part of my senior year. As we took our first infield of the year as the number one ranked team in the state, the idea that the season could be canceled or even delayed was nowhere in our minds. 

My last day of high school -on March 13th- was the weirdest moment of my life. All around me, there was such a mix of emotions. I always knew that I would be sad when high school ended. So many of my friends, my teachers and my classmates I would probably never see again. I knew that it would be a bittersweet farewell, but, that day, I felt fear. The same fear I felt as I rode to the emergency room at the beginning of my junior season. It couldn’t really be over, could it? 

Even though school was closed, to us on the baseball team, it wasn’t over. We couldn’t accept that. Before the governor put a stop to nonessential excursions, we met every day. We went to the gym, we played catch, we took batting practice. It felt like any day the season would start again. We never stopped working, and we were in midseason form even though it was early. This was fitting, as it felt like we were picking up right where we left off last year. 

Soon it became clear that this would not just be a two week extension of spring break. At first, we hoped we might just lose our first two games. Then we lost our spring break trip. Then the Indianapolis tournament. 

Then I was left, sitting at home socially isolated under a shelter in place order, hoping that I hadn’t played my last game as a Huskie. On April 3rd, my worst fear became a reality when the MHSAA cancelled the 2020 spring sports season. 

I know that I am not alone in my grief. The 12 other seniors on this team are more than my teammates, classmates, and best friends. They are a part of the best memories of my life. We’ve been playing baseball together for so long that some of them have been my teammates for more years of my life than not. Taking the field with them has been a constant in my life for almost as long as I can remember. I knew that, one day, I would take the field with them for the last time. Every season ends, every senior plays in a final game. But it’s impossible for me to accept that I played that game last June. 

Now, all I can do is sit at home, watching the YouTube videos of last season’s games. The same videos I watched, seemingly just moments ago, in sheer anticipation and excitement of putting that uniform back on are now harrowing reminders of the truth that they represent my last games as a Huskie. Every day of this year, I have looked forward to baseball season, towards playing with my brothers again. Towards mental conditioning in Coach Andrew’s classroom every day. Towards long days in the weight room after practice. Towards game days that didn’t end until the sun got too low for us to finish. To warm nights in Andrew’s pool after practice. In the spring, baseball becomes everything for me. It’s the best part of life. If I knew that we would lose our senior season, I’m not sure I would have made it through my senior year. 

In the time since the season has ended, I have been thinking about something my JV soccer coach said to us before our big game against PC freshman year. With tears in his eyes, Coach Shufelt explained to us how much he would pay for just one more game, just one more chance to take the field. Now, I completely understand how he feels. I don’t know what I wouldn’t give for another chance to take the field with my teammates. I don’t have the words to describe how it feels to lose something so special, especially this way. It seems surreal. This wasn’t supposed to be how it ended. 

Now, all I can do is turn back to what PN baseball has taught me: focus on what you can control. I can’t control what uniform I will be wearing the next time I step on a baseball field, but I know that what I have been a part of for the last four years of my life is incredibly special. Endings are always sad, especially when they’re unexpected, but that sadness is how I know that I was a part of something worthwhile, something amazing, and something fundamentally changed who I am as a person, and for that I will always be grateful. 

6 Comments

6 Responses to “Saying goodbye to my senior season”

  1. Alice Baird on April 7th, 2020 8:40 am

    This is beautifully written and poignant. It made me sad and yet also so proud. Thank you for being frank and honest in expressing your feelings.

  2. David Shufelt Jr. on April 7th, 2020 9:37 am

    $10,000….real number…actually 4 years later $12,000 (getting older)

    Right now I would pay that much just to coach you in one last game….”success is the ability to go from one setback to another …without any loss of enthusiasm…”
    –Winston Churchill

  3. Tom and Jean Gaynor on April 7th, 2020 10:25 am

    So proud of you Malcolm!! That is an awesome heartfelt piece.
    Love you,
    Nani and Papa

  4. Rick Isenbeck on April 7th, 2020 8:37 pm

    Very sorry you and your teammates were not able to make another magical run together. However, it will be especially sweet when you all can get together for your high school reunions 10 years from now. Those memories will not fade and will help you all later in life to show how much you all can accomplish if you put work into it. No matter where you all end up going to school or start a new chapter in other ways, many of you will end up successful in some fashion.

  5. Jess Clark on April 7th, 2020 9:02 pm

    Beautiful article Malcolm!

  6. Kathy Hargrove on April 8th, 2020 7:19 am

    Your piece made me feel your pain! Well done…
    Kathy

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