While home in quarantine, Mattituck High School baseball player Emmet Ryan was watching “Moneyball,” the 2011 film about the Oakland Athletics and their former general manager, Billy Beane, currently the club’s executive vice president of baseball operations. A scene in the movie struck a chord with Ryan when the senior outfielder heard these words:
“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game. We just don’t know when that’s going to be. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40, but we’re all told.”
For most of Long Island’s high school senior athletes, including Ryan, that word came down April 21 when Section XI announced the spring high school sports season had been canceled in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Section XI executive director Tom Combs said the decision followed a unanimous vote by the section’s athletic council.
The season that never was ended before it had even started. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for athletes in sports such as baseball, boys tennis, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls track and field, golf and softball.
And especially tough for seniors, who will never again get a chance to play for their high schools.
“It was heart-wrenching,” said senior Tyreek Parker, a Riverhead track and field standout. “I didn’t expect it to be taken away from me like it was. I was keeping up hope that we at least would have some chance for our first spring meet.”
Chrissy Thomas, a senior attack for Riverhead’s girls lacrosse team, which coach Ashley Schandel had called the strongest in team history, was home when Schandel texted her the news.
“I was kind of in shock,” Thomas said. “I knew this was going to happen. When I heard it was official, it was kind of heartbreaking.”
Greenport senior baseball player Josh Santacroce was notified of the casualty in a team group text from his coach, Brian Toussaint.
“It was upsetting, just because it was my last year,” Santacroce said. “I don’t know if I’m going to play baseball in college. I’ve been playing baseball since I was 2. It was just tough … I’ve just been waiting for this baseball season for a year now. I’ve been waiting since last year and for it just not to happen is disappointing.”
I know for a lot of my teammates who don’t plan on playing lacrosse in college, it’s hard for them.Mackenzie Hoeg
Coaches routinely tell their athletes to play like it’s their last game. That saying has really hit home as many players came to the realization that they had played their final game without knowing it at the time.
“A lot of seniors are just trying to look ahead to our next season that we have, but I know a lot of girls, this is their last time playing lacrosse,” said Thomas, who will play for Maryland next year. “I even consider myself lucky because I get to continue playing another four years.”
Parker was coming off a successful indoor season in which he finished sixth in the 55-meter hurdles among public school athletes at the state indoor championships. He was envisioning big things for the spring, aiming for school records in both the 100 meters and 110 high hurdles.
“I was hurt because spring was supposed to be my season,” he said. He continued: “It’s stopping you from doing something that you love to do, that you want to do. I guess I could say I took it for granted. I expected spring to go on without any problem. That’s what really caught me off guard because I wasn’t really expecting my senior season to end like this.”
Mattituck senior Mackenzie Hoeg is a member of the two-time defending state Class D champion Mattituck/Southold girls lacrosse team. The Tuckers will not be able to go for a three-peat in 2020.
“This preseason we put a lot of work in and we worked harder probably than any other offseason,” said Hoeg, an attack/midfielder who will play for Virginia.
Hoeg said she wasn’t actually surprised when teammate Maggie Bruer texted her a screenshot of the Section XI announcement calling off the season. She was disappointed, though.
“I know a lot of the seniors are heartbroken,” she said. “I definitely feel like that but I understand why we’re not having a season. I know for a lot of my teammates who don’t plan on playing lacrosse in college, it’s hard for them.”
The disappointment and wonder of what might have been remains.
“It’s just like a shocking thing,” Thomas said. “Like I said, things got ripped out from under us. Now I know going into college every second matters. There’s no taking things for granted any more. I think this is just a lesson.”