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2020 SOFTBALL SENIORS: A Season Lost

John Embry:  OUT ON A LIMB

The lights were on, the field was marked, the bases were out, and the music was playing.  It was a perfect night for softball and the actual field was in almost mint condition.  But, we didn’t play.  We talked.  We visited.  We reminisced.  And, there were likely a few scattered tears. 

As the head softball coach at Butler County High School, I helped organize a drive-thru recognition event on Tuesday for our senior student-athletes.  It was a surreal event.  Special to be sure but it also had an element of sadness, of what may have been but wasn’t as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s reaction to it.  

With our spring season on the verge of starting, all sports were suspended and ultimately cancelled in Kentucky and elsewhere.  It was a shocking development, and scary one, for our players. The “unknown” factor that existed for several weeks made it worse as we wondered if any of the season could be salvaged but were always fearful that those hopeful thoughts were merely wishful thinking.  

The impact of a season lost was hard for all student-athletes because those of us involved in school sports truly understand the important role athletics can play in the life of a student.  When done well, which we always tried hard to do, life lessons are learned.  Things like true teamwork, hard work, discipline, respect, and perseverance are actually better taught on the field than in a classroom.  It may be more accurate to say that those lessons taught on a field are an extension of the classroom.

We had five seniors this year - a larger than normal group of young ladies.  For Hannah Chaney, Ashley Thacker, Bayleigh Alford, Evyn Frazier, and Haley Peach, the 2020 season that wasn’t is one that they will never forget.  All graduating classes that I’ve had the opportunity to coach in my 19 years are special in their own way and they carry a uniqueness that leaves a lasting impression.  For this group of players, those memories began when they were in the 5th grade - the first of only two instances that we had 5th graders on the middle school team.  There was a larger group at that time but these five continued through middle and high school and were poised for an exciting senior season. 

As I think about this group, I’m reminded of their grand 5th grade entrance into the world of Butler County Softball.  Hannah was a live wire, bouncing off the walls with almost unlimited energy.  Ashley was quiet with big eyes, but eager to learn. We spent a year thinking she and sister Amber were twins - they aren’t.  Bayleigh was about 3 feet tall and skinny as a rail - interesting sewing was required to keep her uniform in the right place.  Evyn was a big talker, a social butterfly, and rolled in to practice just like she’d always been there.  Haley had a big smile and a big heart, always seeming to make everyone around her feel better.  

Although this quintet missed their senior season, their impact on our softball program is significant and their absence will be felt by all.  They also missed the conclusion of the high school academic career.  These high school seniors and others across the country faced disruption and now they face uncertainty.  They will soon scatter in different directions in search of higher education, acquisition of technical skills, jobs, etc.  In short, they will be carving out a life amid the aftermath of a global pandemic.  That’s not easy.  

One of the beauties of youth is the ability not to worry about too much beyond today, the moment they are in.  Kid Rock has some good lyrics in his song “All Summer Long.”  One brief line is “not thinking ‘bout tomorrow.”  That summarizes the essence of youth but most don’t understand it until they are older.  Well, this class has had to come around to that reality a little sooner than expected.  But, they are a team; they will work hard; they understand discipline; they know what respect is; they will persevere.  They have been doing that since they were in the 5th grade.  They are Butler County Softball players and I am proud of them all.  


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Comments?  Send to jwe@beechtreenews.com.         

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