Just one game
After more than a decade on the diamond, the reality there may not be a baseball season for the Cameron Dragons is setting in for senior Mason Hammond.
Hammond, along with brother Graden Hammond, Ian Riley and Coleman Oxford gritted through the cold as they gathered inside the batting cages outside Parkview Elementary School to try and stay loose in anticipation for a season that may not take place due to concerns regarding the Coronavirus.
“It’s been a little different, not being able to get out of the house, not being able to practice every day,” Hammond said. “It’s a big difference, a big change, but we have to get in the cages whenever we can just to get some swings in and stay in shape if we have the season. Hopefully, we do with it being my senior year.”
With the Missouri State Activities Association banning team practices thanks to a statewide order closing school and requesting students, teachers and staff practice social distancing, Monday seemed more of a group of friends getting together for fun than a formal practice. Clad in a Carhart jacket and work boots, junior pitcher Riley lobbed a few balls from the mound outside the cage while Hammond got in a few cuts with his father Earl Hammond standing in for Coach Cole Doherty, who could not participate due to state regulations.
“It’s crazy. I never expected this to happen. It’s my senior year and I worked my tail off just to get to this point,” Hammond said. “This is my last year of baseball. I wanted to go to college to play. During the summer, I’d practice at least three days a week just coming to the cage or taking fly balls in the outfield. I got my starting spot last week. Everybody got their spots and now we find out we might not get a season.”
Hammond hoped 2020 would be a breakout year and possibly attract college scouts so he can take his play to a higher level. Instead, the Parkview batting cages may be the closest he comes to taking the field as a Cameron Dragon. For Hammond, just one game would be enough for him, but he may have to settle with a bat around with a small group of friends.
“We have to come out and make it was fun as we can. Ian is junior and I won’t get to play with him again. Coleman is a senior who decided to come out and play with his buddies. I was glad he did,” Hammond said. “It’s fun just to come out here and play with my friends, maybe for the last time. You never know. We come out two or three times a week, whenever we can get together. We can’t get a big group because of the virus going around, but I just wanted to get a couple of kids who want to come in and get some hitting with me. There is always a possibility we might not get to go back and if we don’t get to go back that means no baseball.”
Monday seemed bittersweet to the players in the cages considering it would have marked the season opener against Lathrop. Instead of facing a Lathrop pitcher, he faced his father, who felt equally displaced by the statewide shutdown considering he coached his son for nearly a decade.
“It’s important the kids get outside as long as the keep their social distancing,” Earl Hammond said. “We keep our group small. Getting outside getting in a sweat and staying active is good for them. Staying inside, especially for a teenager, is hard. They don’t really understand the ramifications of what this disease can do to older people with compromised immune systems … I think it’s good for their mental health just to get outside and enjoy the air, even though it’s kind of cool today.