The Grand Rapids Catholic Central baseball program was really looking forward to the 2020 season after its state finals appearance the year prior, but the 2020 season never happened because of COVID-19.
"Last season it was shutdown and it was heartbreaking," Cougars senior first baseman Dominick Shoenborn said. "We were super excited the entire offseason we were really pumped to play with a great senior class and unfortunately it was shutdown so now we get our senior season right now, it's amazing."
For senior catcher Jabin Bates, baseball is his only sport, not having it last year left a void.
"This is what you work for all year so not being able to have that, it felt like at first that the work that we put in didn't mean anything," Bates said. "But you have to have that mindset to keep working."
The opportunity to play this season is what makes this first day of practice so special.
"It's the interaction between the ballplayers," fourth year Cougars head coach Tim MacKinnon said. "I love these kids, I'm an older coach, but I love being out here with them and listening to their stories and them giving a hundred percent and wanting to learn, they are like sponges and that is what I love about it."
"Just being with the guys," senior infielder Andrew McCall added. "It is literally just being outside, being in the sun, enjoying the weather and just playing the game we love."
Practice one in 2021 is a little different than these guys were used to the last time they practiced together.
"Different," McCall said about Monday's practice. "We are wearing masks now too, you got to take precautions, but it's worth it and it's fun."
More changes are on the way as all spring athletes will have to test for COVID-19 in order to be eligible to compete starting April 2nd.
The Cougars do not have a single player on this year's team that has played in a varsity baseball game, that might be common on many teams throughout the state this year.
"That is a difficult chore, but it's more difficult on them because we are going to ask them to step up their game," MacKinnon said. "We are going to ask them to play like seniors and like juniors, not from back when they were sophomores and juniors so we are asking them to step up and achieve the type of goals that normally we look for here at Catholic Central."
Teams can begin competition on Friday.
Catholic Central's first game is scheduled for April 14th.