The NCAA has announced an additional year of eligibility for its spring-sports athletes in the wake of the cancellations incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic. The CCCAA, the governing body for the state’s community colleges, has followed suit.
However, there’s no redshirt year for high school seniors. And that’s the year so many have pointed towards, dreaming of the year when the advantage is finally theirs in terms of maturity, seniority and athletic development.
The Palo Alto baseball team was looking forward to a banner season. The Vikings were ranked No. 3 among Central Coast Section teams following early-season results by NorCal Preps and was pre-season No. 4 among CCS teams by the Bay Area News Group. They were the top-ranked public school team in each.
Paly was off to a 6-1 start with the one loss by a 2-1 count to perennial power Valley Christian.
The team’s performance is all the more impressive considering there were only two seniors on the roster, a circumstance that gives rise to speculation about how good next year’s team might be.
“They’ll be filthy,’’ pitcher Dean Casey said.
Casey is one of those two seniors on the 2020 squad. After going 4-2 with a 0.96 ERA last year as a junior, Casey got the opening-day start and threw 4 ⅔ scoreless innings in a 3-0 win over St. Ignatius. He went another 4 ⅔ in the loss to Valley Christian, allowing two runs, one earned, as his ERA "soared" to 0.75.
And now the season is over, not at all the way Casey or any of his teammates envisioned it.
“When I first found out I was pretty disappointed, as was the whole team,’’ Casey said. “We put in a lot of work in the offseason, getting stronger. It was disheartening.’’
Casey put on 15 pounds from his junior to his senior year and is now listed at 6-1, 178.
“I gained a few miles per hour since last year,’’ he said. “I’ve been working on a cutter to go along with my fastball, curveball and changeup. My curveball is definitely sharper than last year.’’
Initially there was hope that schools would reopen after spring break, that the situation with COVID-19 might be resolved enough, stabilized to a degree that the spring sports season could resume. But with the rapidly worsening public health crisis that glimmer of hope has been pretty well completely extinguished.
Now Casey, with his high school career having come to a premature end, hopes to pick up where he left off in college next year at the University of Chicago. He said he wants to follow a pre-med course of study with the goal of eventually becoming an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine.
But as for now, he’s staying inside, like we all are. Baseball dreams are on hiatus, for the time being.
What about other senior rites of passage, such as graduation ceremonies?
Still to be determined.
“Maybe we’ll have graduation online,’’ he said, with a laugh.