With so much unknown after the halt of high school sports through at least April 6 due to the coronavirus outbreak, many people are still extremely hopeful seniors across the state will get a chance to finish out their final year.
However, there’s a very realistic possibility they won’t be given that chance and there’s some who may have already had their last opportunity on the field.
With that in mind, Benjamin Russell’s baseball team scrambled for a game Saturday after Alexander City Schools canceled all athletic events beginning Monday and both teams scheduled to play at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex dropped out late Friday night. The Wildcats finally got a call from Munford coach Jamie Burgess, who invited them to play Saturday afternoon.
Not only did Benjamin Russell jump on the opportunity, it also got a little surprise from the Lions.
“When Saturday got here and everything was rapidly changing, I just felt like we needed to do something for our seniors,” Munford coach Jamie Burgess said. “We just had a gut feeling that this may be, and there was a growing chance it was our last time on the field for the seniors.”
But Munford didn’t just honor its own seniors; it also called out the names of all nine Benjamin Russell seniors, who lined up on first base during the ceremony.
“It really wasn’t fair to anybody to have to go through this last minute and (BRHS coach Richy Brooks) agreed to it,” Burgess said. “We just wanted to recognize them and all the hard work they had put in for both programs. We didn’t have any plaques or anything we could give them, but we gave them what we could.”
Although Benjamin Russell’s players are still hard at work on an individual level in the hopes the season will resume after the schools’ shutdown, there was still an appreciation for the Lions to take that time out and give them something to remember if it comes to that.
“It was a cool moment for them to think of us like that instead of just thinking of themselves,” BRHS senior Cade Brooks said. “For them to think of us too on a visiting team, it meant a lot to us and it hit hard. We weren’t really thinking about it but when we were lining up on the first-base line, it was the first time that we really thought it could be the last time playing with each other.”
Wildcat senior Neal Fenn said, “It was kind of surreal because at that moment I was thinking, ‘This can’t be our last game.’ And we are hoping it’s not but at the same time we did start thinking, ‘This could really be it.’ It meant a lot because most teams wouldn’t have done that so it was very respectful.”
It would’ve been easy for Munford to recognize only its seniors but Burgess felt the right thing to do was to honor both teams. And it was yet another example of how even during times of disaster, sports brings communities together.
“Coach Brooks is an outstanding coach and he’s been doing this a long time,” Burgess said. “We understand that there are certain things that are bigger than the game and we’re all in this together. We also got a chance to show as many people that it’s not just about you; it’s about other people as well. Those seniors for their community, they put in just as much work as we have. That’s why I felt like it was right to include them.”
Benjamin Russell’s seniors include Brooks, Fenn, Colby Riddle, Denzel Greene, Ryan Willis, Ty Brown, Dawson Trapp, Joe Young and Brett Pitts.