Saturday night in Sulphur – or maybe it will be Hammond – someone is going to catch a pop up or make a throw to first or get a strikeout. Or maybe it’ll be a walk-off hit, but it will happen.
The time, the place and the method really doesn’t matter. But when the last out is made (or last run is scored) in either the Class 5A state baseball finals (Sulphur) or the Division I finals (Hammond), that’s it. We’ll be done.
Another high school sports calendar will have run its course.
Seniors will graduate all across the state and those moments they have been pointing toward all their athletic life will officially be a memory. Another class steps up; another set of memories waiting to be made.
It starts in the heat of the late summer and ends in the heat of the late spring. It takes us for a ride throughout the calendar with the unexpected happening more often that you can count.
The stories within those nine months are what make high school sports so special. It’s not about the superstar who leaves for college early to get a jump on his next-level career. Those are the headliners and they certainly have their place.
Instead, focus on all the things that happen over the course of 40 weeks. Hopes. Dreams. Pain. Tears.
There’s a Class C basketball team in a town you’ve never heard of that just won its biggest game against the rival it could never beat. There’s a region, devastated by a natural disaster, that rallied just to field a high school football team because it was what they needed to do to feel normal.
There’s a girl who never played volleyball before and found a place on the team that did more for her self-esteem than anybody ever thought.
There’s the swimmer who missed being a state champion by .01 seconds or the softball player who took a called third strike with the bases loaded to end the game.
And there’s the kid who sat the bench at the Class 5A school, just waiting for his chance because his senior year was the only shot he was ever going to get. The kid who just wanted to play, even if it was a deep snapper or a courtesy runner.
They’ll hold trophies at the end of every sport’s season and everyone will smile as celebratory pictures and selfies are taken. Just a few feet away are the defeated opponents, who just knew it wasn’t going to be that way. It seems like that crushing pain will never go away. And then it does.
If you said high school sports are not like it used to be, you would be correct. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Athletic competition was never meant to be stagnant. We are always trying to run faster, throw harder and kick farther. That’s just athletics.
You have to look down into the core of high school athletics to see what’s going on now is what has always gone on. These are probably the greatest times and the greatest friends you’ll ever have. Tucked inside that calendar will be good memories and bad memories, but they will all be special.
And the best part of all? When it’s over, there’s another train coming.
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