Robinson: WSN baseball Eagles had a great year
As a journalist, we are taught to strive to be objective. In the context of journalism, objectivity may be understood as synonymous with neutrality. At times, this can be hard to do. While I strive for objectivity, I think it is a little more lenient with a hometown newspaper versus a state or national paper — unless it is a game being played by two local rival schools in your area.
As I sat in my chair Saturday behind the home plate net at Jason Armstrong Field on the campus of Trinity Presbyterian School, I caught myself not staying in the journalistic form of being objective.
I caught myself pulling for the Eagles when things went right for the W.S. Neal baseball team. And then I caught myself shaking my head in disgust when things when wrong for them. In the end, I caught myself tearing up when the final score of Trinity 2, W.S. Neal 1 was official. It did not bother me until I stepped foot on the field — after having to bust through the sea of blue and yellow Eagle fans camped out outside the fence near that visitor’s dugout waiting for their beloved Eagles and still cheering them on — just with a clap instead of the boisterous clapping and yelling that was happening just moments ago when the Eagles loaded the bases in hopes of seeing their dream season continue on to the state finals this week.
As I stepped onto the field to await Eagle head coach Coy Campbell for some post-game comments, I could see the sadness on the Eagles faces. Tears were flowing from their eyes. Then the hugs came to the players from the moms and the dads, family and friends and supporters. Hugs that only made the tears flow even more, especially for seniors, who would never put on that W.S. Neal Eagle jersey again to play for their beloved team.
Then I saw a supporter hug and congratulate Campbell for a great season. It is often said men are not supposed to cry, but this was not the case this day. I could see the look on Campbell’s face — and I hope he would not mind me writing this — but he was crying as well. This only made my job even harder as my eyes started to well up with tears as well.
Seeing this only brought back memories to me of 11 years ago. Eleven years ago, it was me, as a senior in high school, as we lost in the state baseball playoffs. I would never wear another baseball jersey again. It was on the exact same field that the Eagles warmed up on Friday morning at St. James High School, before heading over to Jason Armstrong Field to take on Trinity in game one. In 2002, we lost to St. James — by a score of 2-1 as well — to end my senior year with a 15-9 record. I can remember that feeling of emptiness inside when my high school career was over and the tears that rolled down my face as coach Jim Hart called all of us 2002 seniors together for a final word and spoke to us individually and gave us a hug. The tears came heavier as my parents and uncle who lives in Montgomery were there to console me. The loss not only ended my high school career, but my baseball career. It was the lone pitching loss of my senior year and it came in my final game.
No, it was not in the state semifinals as it was Saturday for the Eagles. And, no, it was not with a 30-2 record. You would only have to play sports to know that feeling of a loss and know that is your final game.
On Saturday, you could see how much this year meant to Coach Campbell. And you could see how much it meant to the players and even the fans of the Eagles and to the community of East Brewton — and even to T.R. Miller fans and the community of East Brewton.
There were T.R. Miller fans and alumni there—like myself— Saturday watching the Eagles. Some were even wearing blue and yellow. Some were standing on their feet yelling for an Eagle win. Some even said those daring words of “Go Blue Eagles” as they were hoping for a win. Even though I was there working, I was working as an Eagle fan.
The Eagles had a great season. Although the loss stings, they need to keep their heads high.
Covering a team, you get a bond with them. You connect with the players and the coaches. The loss hurt me as much as it did them. I hated to know that was my final time of covering the Eagles this season. It still stung Sunday at church as I shared with my dad and others how the game ended.
But as Coach Campbell said Monday, the sun came up Sunday. It will continue to come up each and every day and with every day. Things will get better, and the memories of that loss will slowly ease.
The Eagles might have lost, but they hardly looked out of place or outclassed against the defending 3A champs Friday and Saturday, which advanced to the state championship game for the second consecutive season.
While getting 30 wins was impressive this year, the players and coaches will probably look at what could have happened if they could have gotten just three more wins. But a few days from now, if not already, the Eagles can look back on this historic season and fully appreciate all the milestones — the 30-game win streak, the No. 1 ranking they held all year long, the championships they won and the best season in W.S. Neal school history.
“I will surely miss these seniors, but this will not be our last time here,” Campbell said. “I can assure you of that. It was a great season and the seniors have put their stamp on our baseball program. Everybody knows who W.S. Neal is. We didn’t win the series though, but I won in the end because I got to coach a bunch of good winners. They will be remembered here for a long time and I will never forget them. The friendships we made, is something that is better than wins and losses. Give Trinity credit, they are defending state champs, but I don’t think the best team won the game.”
And Campbell is right in this journalist’s eyes. While Trinity 2, W.S. Neal 1 was the final score on the scoreboard Saturday afternoon, W.S. Neal is No. 1 in the eyes of many this year.