In Nick Engleman’s first year serving as head baseball coach for the El Dorado Springs High School baseball team, the season ended before it could begin, with two weeks of practice being cut short to the point of the season abruptly ending due to the novel coronavirus pandemic — but the hard work of both seniors and underclassmen has not gone unnoticed to him or the El Dorado Springs community.
The baseball Bulldogs have five seniors on the team: Derek Hayes, Deston Malek, Payton Zartman, Wesley Davis and Ivan Lozano.
“Just not being able to even get an opportunity to play one game for their senior year is always tough,” Engleman told the Cedar County Republican.
Engleman noted Hayes was selected as a Missouri all-state pitcher last year, and he would have played a big role from the team’s pitching standpoint for this year’s season. Additionally, Zartman is a college signee, as well.
“Destin and Ivan are guys that have been in the program their entire high school career and were able to contribute in different ways prior up to the season,” Engleman said, adding this season would have been Davis’ first season playing for the baseball Bulldogs, and the team was looking forward to what he would bring to the mound.
When a player does not get the chance to finish out his sports career, the big question of “What if?” lingers from the standpoint of player stats, Engleman noted.
“‘What would be my final at bat?’ ‘What would be my final time facing a hitter if I was pitching?’” Engleman said, postulating questions players would think. “You don’t get that opportunity — you don’t ever get a chance to actually have your season finished on the field, but to have it in this type of pandemic, because it’s not just the seniors. You get these juniors, sophomores and freshmen, who don’t ever have an opportunity to see what this current time period was in their high school career.”
Engleman said he has talked with all of his players, and while they seem to be in good spirits, sometimes in the moment, they understand they will not get this season’s opportunity back after looking forward to building upon last year’s success as a team.
In the 2018-19 season, the Bulldogs saw a 15-6 record and a conference championship. After not clamping the win in last year’s district championship, while also returning players from last year, the Bulldogs were looking to build off last year’s successes and not only win the district championship, but also make a run at state-level titles.
“At the end of the day, it’s a sport — and most of these boys know that, it is a sport — but it’s still a big part of who they’ve been their entire life up to this point,” Engleman said. “For all five of them not to have that opportunity and get to play on the field is disappointing not only for those five seniors, but for the fifteen other underclassmen, as well.”
The opportunity for this year’s season ended after the culmination of work throughout the year. Malek was coming off of rehabbing from an injury, and other players were coming to winter workouts, to name examples.
“They were putting the time and the effort in,” Engleman said. “With Destin, his only sport that he played was baseball, and that was the same with Ivan and Payton, and Wesley — the only one we had who was a multisport athlete was Derek Hays, he played football. They were all putting time in, whether it was their own time or with the team.”
El Dorado Springs High School has been participating in the national practice of lighting up the football scoreboard on Friday nights to honor 2020 seniors and support those on the front line in the coronavirus pandemic, Engleman said.
“I think it’s a great thing they’re doing,” he said. “It’s not just on the sports side, but we had several seniors in different activities, from scholar bowl to speech and debate and band and choir that were unable to have their senior years finished the way they wanted to, as well.”
Additionally, students and teachers who participate in activities at the El Dorado Springs school district — not only athletics, but also other activities such as band — are participating in leadership conference meetings on Zoom, an online video conferencing application, Engleman said, allowing an opportunity for students to receive leadership training “so that they can step up this next school year and not only be better leaders for themselves individually, but to be better leaders for their teammates once we step back onto the field or to the court or to the bandroom.”
Looking forward to next year’s season, Engleman said he believes the team will be able to bounce back from this year’s loss of opportunity, noting underclassmen are already talking about playing during the summer if the team is able to participate when the stay at home order and general quarantine is lifted.