AVON, June 15, 2020 – The sun was warm on Monday afternoon at Buckingham Field and the sky was filled with wisps of clouds high in the air.
On most other June afternoons, there would have been the sounds of baseballs whistling through the air and the popping sound when a player’s glove snatches the ball out of the air. The occasional crack of a bat would have echoed across the diamond.
But this was no ordinary June afternoon and it hasn’t been an ordinary spring.
The contagious COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. The traditions and events that have marked the final months of school over the past century are off the table for now as we, as a nation, try to stay healthy against a virus with no known cure or treatment at this time.
The Avon High baseball team is just one of many teams that never had a chance to play this spring. There were no games, no uniforms to clean, no fly balls to chase down or even a practice together.
The Falcons, who were looking to bounce back from a challenging 3-17 record in 2019, tried to stay together during the spring with video calls on Zoom. Head coach Jon Yolles and his coaching staff couldn’t let the season slip away without a few moments together.
There was a short meeting on the hard-packed dirt and clover-covered grass at Buckingham Field where Yolles and his coaching staff presented the team’s seven seniors with a commemorative baseball bat, a hard-bound album with a few photos and some words of wisdom from the senior players, and an Avon High baseball cap. The coaching staff came together to cover those costs.
A video of baseball memories from the underclassmen was sent around by email to the seniors earlier this month.
That video was inspired by another video earlier in May from some media personalities at ESPN, including former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Tom Engle works in Bristol at the world-wide leader for sports and some of his colleagues were happy to put together a brief video to raise the boy’s spirits.
“It would be nice to be hitting fungos (fly balls) right now,” Yolles said. “But what can you do.”
“We thought it would be great to see the kids and the coaches on the field again,” he said. “We wanted to give them a few things to remember us by.”
The seven seniors on this year’s team are Matt Arciero, Justin Hasler, Jack Jube, Max Raha, Blaise Engle, Billy Horrigan and Daniel O’Brien.
“I feel really badly for them,” Yolles said. “I know what I would feel like if I was a high senior. It would be devasting for me. They have made the best of it. They’ve helped the underclassmen. They’ve been really active on the zoom calls helping the younger guys.”
For the most part, the kids and their parents kept their distance. The kids chatted about baseball, school and the upcoming graduation ceremony. They laughed but enjoyed a little time for face-to-face conversations with friends on a warm June afternoon on a field where they have spent so much time together in the past.