Players get back in game with start of Sunflower Collegiate League season
Monday didn't just bring the start of the Sunflower Collegiate League, it brought a chance for players and coaches to get back in the game after the collegiate season was cut short.
For Rose Hill Sluggers coach Jason Jones it's a chance to coach again after his season at Tabor College ended early.
"We're out here competing again. It's about the competition. The guys, that's what they want, that's what we play for," Jones says. "We have a lot of hungry guys that come from competitive programs. They didn't get to do that this year, so they've been itching away."
For Rose Hill Sluggers players, Monday marks the first time in months they've been able to play. Zach Baxley, and Andale High School grad, was in the early stages of his junior season at Southwestern Oklahoma State University when COVID-19 stopped play.
"It was weird because we were trying to get back hot again, my team was," Baxley says. "We found out we were playing this summer. We're one of the only leagues in this area, so it is a privilege to be playing. It's pretty cool."
While made up mostly of college talent, two local high school seniors will also take the diamond this summer in Rose Hill.
Grant Adler and Tanner Leslie both lost out on their high school senior seasons because of COVID-19. They say the last time they've played competitive baseball was in the NBC World Series toward the end of last summer. Each has signed to continue their playing careers at the college level.
"It was definitely disappointing, says Adler, a recent Derby grad. "It was something that I had been looking forward to for as long as I could remember. Senior baseball season is something special, but it is what it is. We are back out here now and I am just excited."
Leslie, who graduated from Campus last month, spoke of the challenges of playing with college-experienced talent in the summer.
"Being with the college guys is just a completely different game than high school ball, so you have to take it one step at a time and never take anything for granted," he says.
Coaches and players agree, being back on the field this summer is special and something they appreciate even more after going months away from competing.