The baseball team "snuck" into the regional playoffs of the NAIA World Series this week by a tremendous showing at the KCAC conference tournament. LaRee and I were able to go to Oklahoma City to watch them play. We won one game and lost two, so we are home now.
This was initially a disappointing season for our perennially strong program. We struggled to stay above .500 on the season. Through our placing in the KCAC tournament we were able to win the second spot in the playoffs from our conference.
The playoff appearance was even more special as we were ranked last as the cinderella team competing against ranked opponents. As mentioned we won one game and lost two, which ended our hopes. However, what is even more important was the way we ended the season. I'm not talking about wins and losses. It was the character displayed by this team and the grit they displayed in overcoming tremendous odds to even get to the playoffs.
Some moments stood out to me as I watched the team finish their season.
One was when a father, his youngest son now finishing his final year as a senior, came up to me to talk. "We are not a religious family..." he began. Then he proceeded to talk about the concerns he had when he dropped his son off as a freshman. "Are you sure you want to do this? It's not too late to enroll somewhere else." The son replied that he was sure and he would make it work. The father went on to tell me that an older brother was heavily recruited to go a west coast school and dropped out of baseball after two years. In contrast, the experience of his youngest son at York was more than they hoped for as they watched him work his way up to the varsity. Now he doesn't want to leave. Dad said he was going to try and see some YC games in the future, even though his son wasn't playing anymore because he was so proud of the program. I know it is hard for families who have supported their kids from T-ball through college to realize this is the end. However, it is gratifying to know that they have left here becoming better people and appreciating the difference attending YC has made in their lives.
Another special moment was watching Isaiah Bond, Kevin Olmstead and Jake Sola circled up with their arms around each other praying together before the second game.
The men had fun, not the least of which was encouraging Tyler Tate to get 20 pieces of Dubble Bubble gum in his mouth and then blow a bubble. He then took the gum out rolled into a rope and jump roped.
A more serious moment was after the second loss. The team exited the field. Most were in tears, even though most tried to hold them back. This group would never be together again. While some will be in touch, some relationships will end with this game and this time. The ending of a team is a hard thing to take, especially because you have spent years together and know strengths and weaknesses. It is even more special here because it isn't just about playing the game you love, it is about learning to love the people who share the game with you and knowing there is a bond that will last the rest of your life.
Through it all, they competed, had fun together, laughed together and cried together. They represented York College well and came back after a tough season to show their courage and their character.
And we weren't even supposed to be there.
I am proud of you, men.
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