Emma Stasio felt the ball pop off her bat then saw it sail over the left field fence.
Moment later Stasio’s Kenmore East teammates swarmed her as she touched home plate with the game winning run.
It was the kind of moment Stasio and her mates will talk about for years to come.
“I’m so happy we can play and actually get the season in and have that moment,” said Stasio, a senior.
The kind of moment that reminds you how important high school sports are and how thankful kids are to have the spring season back.
Last spring diamonds and playing fields all over the country fell silent as the world was in the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic. As precious time elapsed and kids sat at home waiting and wondering if and when they would play their next game it put things in perspective as to just how precious this time in their lives truly is.
“It feels really good,” said Leah Fron, a junior on the Kenmore West softball team. “Every one of us just wants to be back and you can tell, on the field and off the field everyone is just really excited to be back. And our chemistry is very good. We all missed it very much.”
Fron said that while it obviously feels great to be between the lines playing the game she loves so much the true gift of this season is reconnecting with her friends.
Last year most teams had gotten in roughly one week of practice before everything was shut down until further notice.
The thought was that a few extra weeks to get handle on what was going on with the virus and hopefully be back on April 20-the scheduled return date from spring break-and all would be up and running.
Little did they know that when they packed up their gear that last Friday, that was it for the season.
“The first week after the shutdown was probably the worst,” said Fron. “We would go to Crosby (Field) and try and be a team. Hit a ball or something. The worst part was losing our seniors (who didn’t get to play).”
The isolation of Covid sent a message to so many that the little things in life, like spending time in person with the people with love, is what life is all about.
It wasn’t just sports. With the closing of schools, there was a complete disruption in every student’s life.
No in school learning or time with friends. Traditional rites of passage like prom and graduation were called off or drastically different.
Non-sports clubs like drama, math and science all saw an abrupt end to the school year.
Tonawanda High School Nik Balling can speak from the perspective of losing more than just sports.
A captain on the Warriors lacrosse team, which was slated for its first season as a full-fledged varsity program, Balling also had a part in the school’s production of RENT.
“I guess you never really miss something until it’s gone,” said Balling.
Balling said that while the lax program lost an all-important year of experience on the field the reality of no season was just as big of an impact on his social life.
“Sundays we would play Xbox and play games with each other online but it just wasn’t the same,” said Balling.
While no one will ever minimize the heartbreak the Class of 2020 experienced most can agree it’s been far worse for the Class of 2021 as there has been virtually no normalcy to their school year.
Having their spring sport back gives the Class of 21 a season that not all is lost. There is still plenty to smile about.
“We didn’t have homecoming or anything like that,” said Stasio. “This is such a great group of girls. The camaraderie that we built over the short six practices we had before the season started. I think this is one of the best teams we’ve ever had.”
Hard as last year was, losing so much has helped kids to fully appreciate and make the most out of everything in their world.
“Play every game or practice like it was your last,” Fron said. “Take it more seriously and (have) a new perspective.”
When hockey great Wayne Gretzky retired he was asked what he would miss the most about the game. Wayne’s response was a humble smile followed by eating pizza with the boys on the bus.
That simple statement from arguably the best the game has ever seen is a powerful example of the importance of cherishing friendships with teammates.
“Win or lose I love my teammates,” said Balling. “I love my teammates.”
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