As the baseball season playoffs begin, the team shrinks to the Varsity players. JT is a 10th grader who is part of the core that remains. He doesn’t get a lot of playing time but he is at practices and games, catching in the bullpen, warming up pitchers, serving as a loud-mouth in the dugout chatter, and at the ready should the opportunity arise. It’s exhilarating to be here with the close-knit team and Thursday night brought home the thrill.
Though I am hard-pressed to explain the structure, athletics in this state feature a number of different play-offs, all with different value to the team. There are county playoffs, featuring all the schools in the county: public, parochial, and independent. There are state-wide league playoffs, featuring all of the schools in the conference (ours is the Skyland conference, which is state-wide). Skyland has three divisions, structured by the size of the school; those playoff games start next week. Finally, there is the Prep Championship, a tournament made up of all the independent prep schools in our region of the state. That’s the tournament with the longest tradition at our school and it features schools we’ve been playing against for nearly 100 years, so there are long-standing rivalries. Because of the history, winning this one is particularly sweet. We entered the tournament last week ranked at the middling level. Thursday night the boys won the Prep Championship in a 3-0 game against a team ranked number one in the tournament and in the top 20 state-wide. The post-game team conference was euphoric.
As fans, JT and I have attended school baseball games for years. We’ve seen sweet victories and team photos before. But a team photo with him in it is a reminder of just how quickly time passes.
It seems like it was just yesterday that I watched baseball with a little boy at my side.