Baseball seniors hang up the cleats

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world on pause, and led to the cancellation of numerous events and activities. On March 12, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that PSAL activities were to be suspended indefinitely, and on March 15, it was announced schools would also be suspended. With the decision to not reopen schools for the 2019-20 school year, PSAL spring sports are effectively over. These also represent the last seasons for graduating seniors, who are not able to participate in their final year. As now is the time when the school would normally celebrate its athletic achievements, The Classic asked players from various THHS spring teams to share thoughts about outgoing senior athletes. This is the first in a series of such reflections. 

The Townsend Harris baseball team had three seniors: James Hopkins, Nile Johnson, and Shane Werther. All three had participated since their freshman year, and their departure has disappointed some of the members of the team, including myself. These were the teammates I have played the longest with, and the closest in my age. We shared a connection that I couldn’t get with the upperclassmen in years prior because we could relate to each other much more. 

My first baseball practice in freshman year was an experience to say the least. Even though I would be playing the sport I love for the next three months, I felt a detachment with the rest of the team. I didn’t feel as though I was a part of the team for quite some time, but I still showed up to practices and scrimmages. As time would tell, these feelings would not last very long and I soon grew to look forward to baseball everyday. A lot of that change is thanks to this year’s seniors.

As sophomores, James, Nile, and Shane were still fairly new to the team when you think about it; they were in my shoes the year prior. I found myself gravitating towards them, as they knew what I felt like and the struggles of freshman year. Looking back on it, I’m thankful that they were so welcoming to me, and became people I could talk with and not feel judged. Those chats about baseball turned into chats about school, different classes we had in common, college apps, APs, and life in general. I created a bond with them that I couldn’t make with the other members of the team. Their open and receptive attitude went for everyone on the team, every single year.

“Each captain helped me and the team in more ways than I can explain. [Shane] was our lockdown center fielder and the best hype man anyone could ask for. James was always a spark plug, and it became a norm for me to step up to the plate and see him on base. Last but not least, Nile, our senior shortstop who made every single play. But what stands out to me about him was his humor, and he would make everyone on the team crack up, “ sophomore Jacob Davidson shared. “All three of these guys will be graduating and it won’t be the same without them.”

Junior Gopalkrishna Baliga was in the middle of his second season with the team before it was cut short. He also shared his sentiments to the departing seniors. He said, “You guys deserve so much better, but thank you guys for everything you’ve done for me, [from] dealing with the stresses of junior year, or having confidence in myself and my abilities. I will always love you guys.”

There’s many things that I’ll miss about the seniors. James was the calm one who offered the best advice on school and life. Nile was always the one to crack a joke and slice any tension in the team. Shane was good at everything, but taught me to have fun and not let things get to my head. Together they made up the glue for our team, and I’ll never forget them.

As James, Nile, and Shane leave, it’s now time for the current juniors to take up the leadership role for the team. I too want to leave a mark like theirs when I graduate from the team next year, and I’m glad that I have a blueprint to look upon. Their selflessness and team-first attitude were indispensable, and they will truly be missed.

Photo courtesy of Coach Lemanczyk.