As the world struggles to continue a normal life amid the COVID-19 outbreak, high school sports programs and activities take a crushing blow. With Arkansas schools deciding to stay closed for the remainder of the school year, the Arkansas Activities Association saw it best to follow suit and just like that, spring sports would be no more. As hearts from all over the state broke, it was the players who took the hardest hit with seniors being affected the worst. As the realization continues to set in for these seniors that they will not be heading back to the track or field to finish their high school careers, Resident Press Sports along with the incredibly supportive coaches would like to say our own goodbyes to the players of spring 2020.
Waldron Bulldogs baseball head coach, Mark Brigance, gives his take on this season and the next. The Bulldogs never got the chance to hit the field for a conference game but they did manage to get five games under their belt. With an overall record of 4-1, Waldron was on fire and looking to take over their division. Their four wins came from Mena, Foreman, Genoa Central, and Hackett, and their lone loss stemmed from Horatio, proving the Bulldogs’ successful dirt domination every time they hit the field. “The key senior talent that will be lost from the 2020 Bulldogs team are Seth Hunt, Payton Brown, Ruben Valdez, and Angelo Bandin.”
“Seth played both pitcher and shortstop. Payton played catcher and pitcher. Ruben started more than half of last year’s season and all of this year at second base. And Angelo is a newcomer to baseball and is a reserve outfielder. These players are very talented and will be missed immensely by the program. Seth has committed to playing at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville after high school and Payton committed to playing basketball at UAFS in the fall. These two will move on and be extremely busy and not have much time to think about their lost season. However, no athlete wants to lose their senior season.”
“These losses to the program will be difficult to fill. Drake Carnley will come back as a senior and hold down shortstop just fine. The pitching department is where we will be hit the hardest with two outstanding pitchers leaving us. But stepping up to fill those shoes next year will be Jayden “Catfish” McConnell who has pitched two years of varsity innings and Braden Williams who was the catcher for most of the 2019 season so he will be leading the team from behind the plate. Williams, Caden Fuller, Patrick Poor, and Matthew Brigance will be the brigade called upon to get players out.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on schools and school athletics. Although the coaches can handle the abrupt ending to the season the best, it’s our players who are taking the worst of it. They are always ready to play which is the upside to being young and having a competitive spirit. If there is anything that I can tell my players to help them cope with this pandemic, is that life moves forward. Having a family and spending time with them has been a huge positive from this life-changing event. One day, many of these players will get married and have a family of their own and they will get to see what a special blessing this really is.”
“Although next year’s baseball season can’t come soon enough for all of us in the Bulldog program, we know that once a season is over it hurts. But for things to end this way, it hurts even worse for our players. Thank you to all of our players but more importantly our seniors for always working hard to get us to the next best thing!”
Photos courtesy of Sandy Tull