Georgia High School Seniors Heartbroken Over Baseball Season
Many of the teens on Buford High School's baseball team have been swinging a bat since they were toddlers, fielding ground balls since elementary school. Now it's senior year and the seniors are trying to catch the attention of scouts.
Before the Coronavirus pandemic upended Buford’s baseball season, the Buford Wolves record was 10-2, they were one of the top teams in the state and poised to make another state championship run this year.
“We went to the championship in 2018, fell short last year in the third round and we had a lot of our starters coming back and we have a lot of good young talent. You know, we were really excited about the season,” said Buford head baseball coach Stuart Chester.
During practice in mid-March, Coach Chester found out that their promising season might be coming to an end. It took him a day to process the information, he said, and the next day, he told the team.
Coach Chester told the seniors to keep their heads up and is doing everything in his power to try to keep the season intact, Buford senior outfielder John Alan Williams told GPB News.
“We were just out there practicing. Everything was normal and then they let us know that we're postponing and possibly canceling, and we were coming off playing in some of the biggest tournaments in the country and making it to the championship in both of those,” said Williams.
Buford senior first baseman Greg Johnson said they started an online group chat with the whole team to come up with a plan. They decided to keep working out and staying in shape in case they were given the green light to play again.
“We basically just said, get your work done by yourself. And we check up on each other to make sure we're all like still lifting and conditioning ourselves by running, hitting, whether that may be with one other person or with our parents,” said Johnson.
There’s another reason the seniors have to stay in shape: recruiting. Buford senior pitcher Cooper Hardee has multiple offers to play at the next level, but he hasn’t signed yet. He said he’s still looking for the right school for him. The pandemic has put a halt to all recruiting opportunities and college visits, but some universities are getting creative through social media.
“One thing I've seen a lot for other players is on Twitter, a bunch of colleges are actually just tweeting. Like if someone needs a team just reach out to them and send game film,” said Hardee.
Watching a player on film is much different than seeing them perform on the field, though. Chester said it will impact seniors on the bubble more than anything. “I think those bubble guys that are seniors, you know, it could affect them in a positive way to where a college might take a chance, or negative way and they could say we're going to go a different route,” Chester explained.
Aside from missing out on all things baseball, like the glory of senior night, students across the state could also miss out on other major high school events. “I could miss out on prom I read before they actually called and postponed everything. I actually just bought my tux for prom,” said Johnson.
Coach Chester became emotional when speaking about how his players could miss out. “They have senior dinners throughout the whole season… and then of course, senior night, and you know, as a coach, we're only as good as our seniors and we have a great senior group, probably better men than baseball players,” said Chester.
But all the Buford Wolves High School baseball team, and other high school teams across the state, can do is wait.
“Something that coach Chester stresses to every senior class that comes through there is winning our last game. He talks about it to motivate us like, how do you want to be remembered? Not only on the baseball field, but as a person,” said Williams.