Saturday marked the third week that Chicago has been under a “Stay at Home” order, implemented by Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot in response to the rising threat of COVID-19 in our communities. As a result of the order, life as we know it has been altered. As a high school senior in downtown Chicago my mind was solely focused on finishing the year strong with my closest friends and starting the process of transitioning to college. As an athlete I was craving for the season to start, fighting for a spot in the varsity rotation and helping my team compete for several trophies in May. Initially when I was told that our season was being pushed back and that school was being moved online I was optimistic, it seemed to me that if everyone took steps like this to keep safe, then the virus would pass faster. As the days turned to weeks, my naiveté began to become apparent.
When I was in middle school, my family moved from the United Kingdom to the North Side of Chicago. As everyone who has transferred schools can confirm, moving schools is scary; however, moving to an entirely new country made this transition even harder for me. I could understand every word my new classmates said, but there was still a barrier I had to overcome—I had no common ground with them. Trying to fit in was a challenge considering I was the only one who knew what “Top Gear” or “The Premier League” was. (This was before NBC made English soccer mainstream.) Luckily there was one common language I could speak that the kids in my grade understood, Baseball. I spent the first year of middle school tackling some of baseball’s toughest questions with a group of other kids who shared my passion. The debates on whether the Cubs or the Cardinals were superior could take hours, but there was no way I would rather spend it.
As I started high school, baseball became more than an activity to me. As many other high school students do, I began to struggle with my mental health as a freshman, and baseball became a point of pride for me when I felt that I had none. The companionship that I felt as a part of the team gave me a sense of purpose that I had lacked for such a long time and became a key part in my road to recovery. The highs and lows that I experienced as a part of the team taught me accountability and responsibility and also forged some of the strongest friendships that I have ever had. I doubt I have ever felt more relief and joy than the moment we advanced to the sectional final after a late comeback at the end of my junior year.
That’s where the story ends though—my senior campaign was over before it had a chance to start. All the hope and expectation that my teammates and I had built before the season was suddenly washed away by a wave of regulations and precautions put into effect because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The hours that we spent preparing ourselves for the grind of the season now mean nothing. The hope of being recruited to play at the next level is now dead. The nights we should be battling between the foul lines are now spent trying to stay ready for a season which still may never happen.
Embedded in all that sadness though, there are silver linings. According to Vocabulary.com, a silver lining is when “even the worst events or situations have some positive aspect.” It is especially important to find these silver linings in trying times like these, where it would be easy to focus on the negatives and forget the positives. I’ve come to terms with the fact that, without a remarkable senior year, the chances are slim that I will be able to continue my playing career at a high level. That fact also made me realize that I am not satisfied walking away from the sport as a whole and led me to search out programs and majors that can lead me to finding a job in the baseball industry once I earn a degree.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are other seniors out there who are heartbroken that they have lost their season. I assure you I share your pain, but there are so many things to be thankful for right now that it is important to not let the sadness dominate the day. There are silver linings everywhere. Both the MLB and the NBA have created competitions that involve the players to keep fans engaged. There is no other situation where a baseball fan could see Joey Gallo banter with Blake Snell over a PlayStation game. There is plenty to be thankful for at home as well. I have never been more thankful for my health and my family than I have been these past three weeks and will continue to be thankful for them every day.
I have a suspicion that this might be a great thing for the sport of baseball, despite the awful circumstances. The mantra that baseball is a “dying” sport has been around for years and the lack of a young fanbase was seen as a fatal flaw. The response to the MLB season suspension demonstrated that there is a community in place all over the world that loves this sport and misses it dearly. When baseball does return, there will be a horde of young, talented players all battling to earn the right to continue playing. The community of young baseball players will ensure that baseball will not fade into the past, and as someone who has come to the end of his baseball journey, that is the brightest silver lining of all.