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Walter Ford: A loss anyway you look at it

The Sac-Joaquin Section’s baseball playoffs were scheduled for this week. High school diamonds across the region would have been peppered with prep players donning their school colors and battling through their respective brackets in search of the coveted blue Section championship banner.

It was only a year ago when the Nevada Union baseball team snapped a 13-season playoff drought and earned a home playoff game.

The Miners never got a chance to build on last year’s success. In fact, they only played six games before the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really feel for my seniors,” NU baseball coach Ted White said during an interview in late March. “I feel for all of them. It’s a good group, a fun group.”

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The Miners baseball team is just one of several local high school squads that had high hopes this season but never got the chance to play them out.

Bear River’s baseball team made a spirited run through the Division V bracket a season ago and reached the title series against the Colfax Falcons. The Bruins came up short against their rival then and were hoping for another crack at the championship.

“We practically had the same team from the year before,” said Bear River senior Colton Jenkins. “We had great chemistry with each other. I think we would have gone to the section championship.”

We also won’t get to see if the volleyball teams from NU and Bear River would be able to repeat as Section champs. Both teams were coming off title runs in 2019 and were once again loaded with talent.

“We knew we were going to go pretty far and that we were likely to play for another Section championship,” said senior captain Colby Quiggle. “We all believed in each other and I know our coach believed in us. I feel like we were going to go all the way, no matter who was in our way. We felt like we were going to make history two years in a row.”

The Section’s volleyball championships were scheduled for today.

Softball, boys golf, lacrosse, boys tennis, co-ed tennis, track and field, swim, dive and girls D-VII soccer all had their seasons halted in March and the subsequent playoffs canceled.

The postseason is a special time for any athlete, but in high school — and especially for seniors — there is a level of finality that comes with it. For most prep athletes, high school competition will be the pinnacle of their athletic careers. Only about 7% of high school athletes go on to play a varsity sport in college.

“It was heartbreaking because I play sports to help me get through high school,” said Bear River senior volleyball player Jon Rice. “Volleyball became my main sport. It really made my heart hurt because I enjoy this sport so much and love playing it and playing it with my friends.”

I understand that people are dying and others are losing their livelihoods and life savings. It’s been a brutal few months and I feel for all who have suffered during the pandemic. Having a season of high school sports canceled pales in comparison, but it’s still a bummer and a loss anyway you look at it. It’s a loss of an opportunity for the athletes to prove themselves mentally and physically. It’s a loss of exposure for those looking to make an impression on college recruiters. And, most importantly, it’s a loss of some of the most special moments in one’s sporting journey. Whether that journey ends with a title or tears of disappointment, it’s the memories made during that journey that last forever.

“Something was taken from them,” Bear River baseball head coach Eric Van Patten said. “I feel for them because this is a special time in someone’s life that you look back on when you’re down the road in life and some memories have been stolen.”

If you know a young athlete who had their season lost to the pandemic, give them a verbal pat on the back and let them know how much you enjoyed watching them compete.

COMING SOON

Pro sports are starting to plan their return with some fanless events already on the calendar.

The UFC made a splash with its return last weekend, showcasing a strong card of fights for UFC 249.

The NASCAR CUP Series will be back on track Sunday at the Darlington Raceway for the Darlington 400. IndyCar announced last week it would return to action June 6 with the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Major League Baseball is in the process of working out an agreement with players to return sometime in early July.

The PGA is scheduled to tee it up again June 11-14 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

The NBA has not announced a return date, but reports say league owners and executives are optimistic the season will resume as soon as it can be done safely.

END IT WITH A QUOTE

On the value of the journey, Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Mary Lou Retton once said, “A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com or call 530-477-4232.


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