The Press Box: Baseball is Back
For the first time in a really long time, things are feeling a little like normal around here. And much of that normalcy for me is because high school baseball is back! It is that time of year. The time where we once more breathe in the smell of freshly cut green grass, and we hear the sound of birds chipping in the morning and, yes, listen for the crack of the bat!
It has been a very long year. And for the senior baseball players of 2020 who were forced to surrender their season and realized their high school careers were over, it makes this year even more bittersweet. Something as simple as putting on your high school baseball uniform and heading to the field becomes almost ceremonial. High school baseball delivers some of the things we love the most like being outside after a long and dark winter. And you can’t deny baseball provides that feeling of community where parents and friends gather to watch the team practice and play all under springtime skies. Welcome back, baseball. We sure did miss you.
Let’s start at the top and work our way down. The 2020 calendar took a lot away from many people, but in the world of baseball, especially in the Major League, the guys hit hardest were the minor leaguers. Their whole season didn’t happen. With this season moving forward for the pro teams, I am left wondering how the year of lost development will potentially impact rookies trying to make it in the big leagues. Like all things, I guess time will tell.
Last year, the NCAA awarded no Division 1 national championship in baseball for the first time since the title game was played way back in 1947. That is of course because of the pandemic, which caused college baseball to shut down in March with the rest of the world and cancel all spring championships. Thankfully the stage is set this year to crown a champion at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska which gets started on June 19th.
As high school teams in our valley prepare for the season, schools like TCHS, Paden City, Magnolia, Hundred and Valley look forward to taking the field. My plan is to highlight as many teams as the squeezed season allows offering a closer look at the players and coaches. This week let’s check out the Silver Knights.
TCHS high school baseball returns with a new outlook and a sweet new facility. I took a ride out to the brand new field which is home to the Tyler Consolidated Silver Knights Baseball Team to see the team working out and check in with the coaches. It was a bright spring day and Rob Jones, who is in his ninth year as head baseball coach at TCHS, shared some information about how the long anticipated season is developing for the Silver Knights. Coach Jones explained in past years the team usually spends the first 3 weeks or so practicing in the gym. “This year our entire “spring camp” has been held outdoors on the turf. The new facility really is something the whole community and Tyler County can be proud of. Our athletes take a lot of pride in keeping the facility looking looking great and doing our part to make this one of the best atmospheres to practice, play, and watch ball games,” expressed the coach.
As excited as we all are to get this season going, we need to acknowledge the group of young men who lost their senior season last year due to the pandemic and the mandates put in place to try to contain the spread of the virus. Coach Jones shared his 2020 seniors were a small, but tough group who last spring had the opportunity for 16 practices before the shutdown occurred the week before their first
game. “Gage Huffman was a standout pitcher, centerfielder, and shortstop during his time here. Creed Ammons was set to start in the outfield for the Knights and was an emotional leader. Braden Rine, third baseman, was the last senior who missed out on playing games in his final year. All 3 of these young men were part of the Knights baseball program all 4 years of high school,” assured Coach Jones. Each of these young men lost the entirety of their 2020 season which is something they will carry heavy for the rest of their lives.
All coaches want a good relationship with their players. Good relationships build better programs that in turn produce more wins. This dynamic is in part built by their coaching philosophy. I asked Coach Jones about his thoughts on the subject. “My staff and I have always believed in a very strict, yet simple philosophy. We believe if we throw strikes consistently, make the routine plays, get on base often, hustle, and play with determination that we will be competitive with anyone,” explained the coach. He went on to say the Silver Knights want to put the pressure on the other team with aggressive play on the bases and have this as their mindset each day. “Our players believe in the program and the work it takes to get better every time they take the practice field,” assured Coach Jones.
The Knights baseball team is young this year, but full of promise.
“This is a talented, hard-working bunch of student-athletes. That is a testament to their families and how they were raised. All of our guys have been coachable and eager to learn,” explained Coach Jones. The coach proceeded to say they have 3 players on the team without any varsity experience whatsoever, and have no seniors on the roster. Coach Jones added, “We will find leadership within the lower classes. Our staff is not in the business of making predictions, but we expect to compete with anyone when we take the field.”
Special thanks go out to Coach Jones for taking the time to bring us up to speed on the expectations for the 2021 TCHS Knights Baseball Team. Taking all things into account, there is so much to be thankful for this spring baseball season at TCHS: The new facility, a fine group of young men wearing the Knights uniform and experienced, caring coaches. But more than anything else, the season is here and happening! For that Silver Knight fans everywhere are truly grateful!