At the end of every prep sports season, for every team, there is a day dedicated to uniform return. But after the William S. Hart School District decided to postpone spring sports on Thursday evening, Saugus baseball coach Carl Grissom did the opposite of a uniform return.
Grissom allowed each of his players to keep their baseball uniform from the 2020 season as a memento.
“It’s very disappointing,” Grissom said. “I feel for all the guys, especially the seniors that are not going to go out on their own terms and walk away from their high school experience the way they would probably want to.”
District Superintendent Mike Kuhlman addressed district families in an email and said that based on state and county recommendations, all athletic and extra-curricular activities are suspended at least until April 30.
“We should not minimize the seriousness of this public health challenge,” Kuhlman said in the email. “The situation calls for bold action and requires a public commitment to these prevention efforts. It also calls for us to respond with courage in the face of fear and thoughtful action instead of unproductive panic.”
Saugus student-athletes felt the impact of the sport suspension particularly hard. After recovering from a school shooting in the fall, many were looking forward to the sense of normalcy and routine that spring sports bring to their lives.
“With everything that was going on,” said senior softball player Dallas Andrews, “with everything that has happened, softball was a way we came together and we used that to get back to normal and now that this is happening, it’s putting us out of that routine we had created afterward.”
Softball had yet to begin its Foothill League season, but most teams had forged bonds through tournaments and preleague games. Boys tennis, boys volleyball, boys golf, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse and swim and dive hadn’t begun league play either.
Track and field was only one meet into its league slate — with Valencia hosting Golden Valley — and baseball was in its second week of Foothill League play.
Valencia baseball player Mitchell Torres and his fellow seniors had received a text message from head coach Mike Killinger at around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evening that had warned of approaching bad news.
On Friday, the team met as a group during lunch for one final time.
“It was heartbreaking,” Torres said. “Our team has worked so hard to get to the point where we were and we were at the start of league and we were feeling really confident.
“To get that news to say we couldn’t play anymore was crushing for all of us. We grew so tight as brothers and for something terrible like coronavirus to take that away from us.”
Torres, who hopes to play baseball at the next level, has yet to commit to a college. He plans to spend his newfound free time training and spending time in the weight room while sending the select videos he has from the season to college coaches.
“On my own, I’ll go work out, maybe get some of my teammates to come with me,” he said. “Still stay in the groove of things, not going to take a lot of time off because I don’t want to relax. We were in the full swing of things and it just got cut short. It gives me an opportunity to get stronger in the weight room so that’s what I’m going to focus on.”
Andrews has already committed to Long Island University to play softball, but she has plenty of teammates that are still going through the recruiting process. With the 8-2 start to the season, however, Andrews has faith that those who want to play in college will do so.
“This adds kind of another layer of almost like ‘What do I do now?’ All these girls are so good they’re going to go to a college no matter when they commit,” she said. “They’re going to go to school and I don’t think they have anything to worry about.”
Andrews added that the Foothill League softball teams are considering coming together for a tournament once the restrictions are lifted and Torres said that Valencia and West Ranch have been in talks about possible pickup games to get some closure for the season.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Torres said. “I love every single one of my teammates. I feel like we had such a strong, close group that I haven’t experienced in my four years at Valencia. We’ve had some close teams but nothing like this. The way this group of seniors has to go out isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair sometimes, but you have to go on.”