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Diamonds are shining again after coronavirus
struck out the 2020 high school baseball season

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From the Feb. 24, 2021 issue of The Journal
By Richard Harris
   If you've been to one of the early season high school baseball games recently, you may have noticed an extra skip in the players' steps as they take the field, a little more zip on the fastballs, and a general joy emanating from the dugouts.
   The reason the diamonds are shining a bit brighter is because everyone is so excited to be back on the field after the way last year's season ended. Last March the season was "rung up" by the Georgia High School Association, which decided to cancel spring sports when concerns of the emerging Coronavirus Pandemic were at their height.
   To make matters worse, two local teams had gotten off to fantastic starts.
   "It was like a punch to the gut," said Schley County Head Coach Chuck Cheek, who's Wildcats were 5-1 and

ranked No. 3 in the state when the season was shut down. "We had a really good team last year that we thought had a chance to make a run for another state title. … We had three seniors last year that deserved to get to have their season. It's hard when you work your whole high school career for that final season and don't get a chance to play it."
   The pain was very real at Marion County High, too. The Eagles were flying high and off to their best start in many years (9-2).
   "It was tough for our coaching staff and players, especially the seniors who only got to play 11 games and didn't get to finish the season," said MCHS Head Coach John Dimitri. "But we tell our guys it's all about what you do with the moment. That's why you do things as hard as you can every day. Our seniors left a footprint for the other guys to follow and they can be proud. We started to learn how to really compete last year."
   Chattahoochee County High hadn't gotten off to a spectacular start last year, but the team was a respectable 3-5 and improving when the plug was pulled.
   "We were devastated for our players, especially the seniors," said CCHS Head Coach Seth Gorman. "We put in all the hard work during the off season only to have the season snatched away by Covid-19. I think it took the players a week or two to process what was taking place. It just seemed surreal."
   While the loss of most of last year's season was hard to swallow, it makes this year more special.
   "There is no question that it feels more special," said Gorman. "We learned not to take the opportunity to play the game for granted. We learned to enjoy every moment of practices and games."
   Coach Cheek whole-heartedly agrees.
   "Absolutely," he said. "We've talked to our guys about the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity we have of being on the field, whether it's a game or practice. Those seniors from last year would do just about anything to get to play again. I want our guys to have that mentality every time they step on the grass."
   Of course there is no guarantee that this year's season will be completed – just ask the Marion County High basketball players who recently lost their season. Coaches and players are hoping that COVID-19 cases will stay low and that everyone associated with the baseball programs (and the general community, too) will stay safe so the 2021 season can go on.
   * Pick up a copy of the Feb. 24, 2021 issue of The Journal in area stores for stories about the first games of the season! (Or get an online subscription!!)