Parents, fans and underclassmen El Campo baseball and softball players waved goodbye to their senior teammates Saturday afternoon outside Legacy Field.
With COVID-19 causing the UIL to cancel spring sports for the 2019-2020 season, the Ladybirds and Ricebirds were not able to have their yearly senior awards.
Coincidentally, Saturday was going to be the final day of the regular season, a home game scheduled against Brazosport.
Instead, the seniors parked their cars and trucks and sat on tailgates and chairs as cars paraded their way from the Little League park to the high school’s fields.
The lead truck was led by the event organizer and handed out goodie bags to each senior donated by local companies and baseball and softball parents. Following them was carload after carload of supporters, honking, taking pictures and waving signs, all to show their support for the seniors who didn’t get to finish their season. One SUV’s occupants even dubbed the Ricebirds the 2020 champions.
“It meant a lot,” Ricebird senior outfielder Tyler Stephenson said. “This is the end of high school for us.”
“We really didn’t have that much of a season or have our senior nights,” senior Ladybird catcher Raven Contreras said. “It really meant a lot that everyone got together and decided to do this for us because we wouldn’t have had anything.”
The seniors also got to see their teammates once again and spend time with the friends they’ve spent so much time with before the suspension of the season.
“It just shows the whole community has your back,” senior Ricebird catcher Clay Jung said. “They all feel for (us). Just seeing everybody and my teammates one last time meant a lot.”
“It was really nice for everyone to come together, not just baseball, not just softball. We all came together and got to experience this as one,” senior Ladybird pitcher Mackenzie Leach said.
Neither softball nor baseball made it very far into the season. The Ricebirds did not make it into district play while the Ladybirds only got one game, a decisive win over Fulshear. The year might not have been completed, but the seniors were still able to make memories along the way.
“The bus rides were always the (most fun) to away games,” Ricebird senior infielder Seth Estrada said. (We were) always laughing, joking, having fun and making funny comments. Those are good memories.”
A month plus away from the game that many have played their whole life has allowed them time to reflect.
“All we can do is pick up and move on and learn from it,” Ricebird senior pitcher Wayne Svatek said. “Not even about baseball. Just learn that opportunities can get cut short and while they’re there you have to capitalize on them. If you don’t, tomorrow you might wake up and it all might be gone. There isn’t any better example than (what happened to us). We definitely got cut short.”
The spring season for the 2019-2020 season didn’t end the way anyone wanted, but the memories and experiences will be something they won’t forget.
The Ladybirds had two seniors: Mackenzie Leach and Raven Contreras. The Ricebirds were senior-heavy with seven: Tyler Stephenson, Wayne Svatek, Clay Jung, Seth Estrada, Jed Zalman and Kolby Korenek.