NOTE: This article was submitted by the Grady Sports Bureau, part of the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
It’s not often that you can say your final time on the field was for a game that wasn’t even played.
After the season ended abruptly due to concerns over the coronavirus, the Milton Eagles baseball team is left wondering what could have been.
The team was handed the long-expected news officially on April 2 as Georgia governor Brian Kemp announced the cancelation of school for the remainder of the semester.
The Eagles were soon to jump into 7-A region play with a home-and-home against North Forsyth before the season ultimately was delayed as the Eagles were minutes away from first pitch at the LakePoint Sports Complex versus Redan.
Eagles varsity head baseball coach Jeff Heusing described the situation as one of the weirdest he had ever seen.
“The school gave us the O.K. to play our game and so we get all the way over to LakePoint, and everybody was speculating what was going to happen,” Heusing said, making note that at this time they had discussed the chance of the season shutting down due to the cancelation of college baseball.
“Umpires are showing up, scouts are in the stands, parents were starting to get there and the LakePoint Complex people came down and said, ‘Look, we’re having to shut our facility down.’ We literally just got back on the bus and went home and then that was it.”
This was the harsh reality that seven Milton seniors were faced with in the midst of a global pandemic. Five of the seven seniors had already committed to play collegiately, while two missed out on an opportunity to pursue that route had they chosen so.
These seniors aren’t just affected by the loss of their time on the field during the remainder of the school year, but also by things that are just as important. They’re losing out on their own senior nights, their high school prom and the opportunity to walk during graduation.
“I just have a lot of sympathy for the seniors,” said Milton baseball assistant coach and 2013 state championship alumnus Matt Phillips.
A positive takeaway from this somber situation is the sheer fact that this was the lowest number of seniors that Milton’s varsity baseball team has had in quite some time. With five of the seven seniors already committed, the repercussions could have been far worse had this been a team with more seniors looking for collegiate offers in the final months.
Coach Heusing cited the 2019 team just a year ago as a team that could have felt harsher ramifications by a canceled season. That team had 11 seniors and four of them either made or flipped their commitments during the last two to three months of the season.
Current players are just trying to make the most of the shelter-in-place edict right now.
“It has been hard with gyms closing and without our facility open but I have made the best of what I have,” said rising junior and varsity infielder Andrew Vislusky.
“Currently I am just doing bodyweight workouts, pick drills and hitting into a net in my yard. It has been hard but I am getting things done.”
Heusing explained that high school teams aren’t the only programs feeling the stress right now.
“I literally got college coaches reaching out to me just saying, ‘Hey, you know it’s really difficult for us to look at this kid’s video, who do you have?’ So I can’t even imagine the pressure on the college coaches to recruit.”
Despite the unwanted break from the game, Phillips hopes the time off will teach his players some valuable lessons.
“I hope that our players will be able to use this adversity to strengthen their appreciation for being able to play the game,” he said.