By Jeremy McDonald
ST. PAUL, Ore.– The St. Paul nine and their families pulled into the gravel path along the right field fence at Gooding Field Friday afternoon leading into 6pm’s Senior recognition.
It was just the Seniors. No non-senior teammates, no fans, no umpires or opposing team in the other dugout. Just the Seniors and their families.
Friday was supposed to be their final regular season doubleheader versus Portland Christian in Portland, this past Tuesday their final regular season home game. But here they were, lined inside their cars with the sinking Mid-May sun behind them, taking turns to walk out to the field one last time.
Caide Schneider came out first, number 10 on his jersey, walked up to the mound. The infield grass, dedicated to them as Seniors as a Drone flew overhead.
The Buckaroo Senior remembers the community that he lived in until the second grade before going to Silverton. He returned for his Senior season, to return to where it started for him 15 years ago and to have his Senior Night meant a lot for him.
“It means a lot, especially transferring over from Silverton for my Senior Year. I started school here and it really meant a lot to me to come back for my Senior Year,” said Schneider. “My family moved back over here and I got the opportunity. It means a lot to me to have my Senior night especially baseball has been a big part of my life the past 15 years, it means a lot.
Schneider, TJ Crawford and Mitch Curtis were named team captains on a team with a lot of promise coming off the crazy year they had last year. Banged up or not as a team by the Kennedy game in the 2A/1A State Championship second round, confidence was high entering this season.
“I felt like we would have had one hellauve season,” said TJ Crawford. “I mean we had a bunch of Seniors, all of us are continuing to play and going up. Everyone developed at the right time and I think some teams would have gotten lucky with us…maybe. But I’ll miss playing with all of these guys in the field.”
Crawford will be going to OIT in the Fall and will look to play baseball with the Owls in the Spring coming off a knee operation he’s about to have on his meniscus. Resting on his morals learned in St. Paul for the splash he hopes to make at the college-level.
“Coming from a small town, you got to stick to your morals and that’s something that St. Paul has,” starts Crawford. “St. Paul has got…no matter what people talk about, they’re from St. Paul, they’ve got great morals. They’re hardworking, they’re honest and they’re downright ready to work.
“That’s my plan, go to school, get a good education and do as my coach said and separate the ball from the school and have some fun in the field and hopefully make my mark there.”
The game and the team are a reflection of the town. To be named even a captain of their team means something special even though this year’s Seniors weren’t able to be given a game this season to prove why they earned that ‘Captain’-tag to their name.
“It feels amazing coming over here and you know, the guys trusted me. That was all team voted on and that made me really believe that they trusted me and that I’ll come in and do the best that I could and it felt great,” said Schneider.
Each member came in and out. Guys like Hayden Scott, Taylor Faber, Jacob Coleman, Steven Coppola had their moment on the mound. Took their picture and walked to the other dugout where second-year Head Coach Dwayne Nowlin sat, waiting for them before the Seniors made their way back to their cars.
Coppola, who will be playing football at the College of the Redwoods in the Fall, remembers catching the final strike, of the final out, of their 2A/1A State Opening Round win last Spring. The strikeout, thrown by Justin Herberger, capped a 2-0 victory over Santiam and handed the Buckaroo program their first ever playoff victory.
“My favorite memory probably has to be that first playoff win when I was catching Justin Herberger. I called the first pitch, he shook it off. I called the second one and I remember thinking in my head, ‘this is going to be it, we’re going to strike him out on this’,” said Coppola. “Sure enough the pitch went in, strike him out. Happy moment ever. I jumped up, hugged (Herberger).
“It was awesome, it meant so much the final ‘phew, we did it. We finally did it’. We’ve been trying at this for so long and almost getting there a couple of times…that was like, the final satisfaction of it.”
It’s weird to think. If the season did happen as planned, as hoped. Everyone would have one of these ceremonies. Some went the route of St. Paul with a modification of a Senior Day, others went with the social media route to honor their Seniors in another fashion.
“It really means a lot to me. It shows that he really does care about us, like we’re a huge family and not expendable numbers or players,”said Coppola. “A lot of schools are just doing that, ‘oh well, your season’s over. It just shows how different St. Paul is. It’s like, ‘no, we’re having a Senior Night. We’re having this so we can have the closure for Seniors’.”
And as the sun continued to set on this Friday night. Baseball will return to Gooding Field. Strikes will be called and runs will be scored again. It’s just now a waiting game until when that will happen once more.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald