LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The new normal for high school seniors in 2020 is much different than in years past.
“To wake up and do school work on my dining room table… it feels weird,” said Matthew Magre.
Matthew is a left-handed pitcher/outfielder/first baseman at Fayetteville high school and is committed to play baseball at the University of Arkansas. He only played in a couple of games in his senior season before the coronavirus stepped in. Games were lost and so were opportunities to make history.
“Growing up I wanted the chance to win a state championship,” Magre said. “I really felt like this was our chance and having that taken away was pretty tough.”
Other Arkansas baseball commits, like Ethan Bates of Lakeside high feel the same way.
“We were a really heavy senior based team,” Bates said. “We basically knew it was our only shot to have a run at state.”
The norm for baseball players is being outside most of the time, but now the players have to cope with the quarantine life inside their homes.
“I have one friend, and he’s like the only friend I’ve been able to see during this time, we’ve been meeting up and playing catch and that has kept me semi sane,” Magre said.
The unexpected turn of events has disappointed sports fans from around the world, but the student-athletes that got the short end of the stick were those who don’t get the chance to play at the next level.
“It hit them the hardest, and it hit me hard for them,” Magre said. “Playing with them and knowing all the hard work that they put in. It’s like they got left with a lot of doubts and a lot of ‘what if’s’.”
For high schoolers, there is no redo year. That means for players like Matthew and Ethan MLB scouts don’t get another chance to see them play before the draft in June.
“That was something I was looking forward to this year,” Magre said. “Over Spring Break we were supposed to go to Phoenix. That’s usually a pretty heavily scouted event that we go to. It’s been tough to handle, but I think I’m coming to grips with it.”
The silver-lining is that it won’t be the last time they play competitive baseball. However, it does mean that they have to jump into playing with some of the best college players in the country without a senior season to hone their skills.
Not only that, but with NCAA spring student-athletes getting a redo year (if they choose), playing time will be even tougher to come by.
“It’s going to change a little bit because they’ve had playing time before,” Bates said. “But I feel like if we compete hard enough that he’ll give us a shot.”
“It puts everybody in the class behind,” Magre added. “Knowing that I’m going to have to come back and compete against some of the best college players in the country has kept me locked in.”
If players do come back, Matthew is able to look at it from both sides.
“It’ll definitely have it’s positives and negatives,” Magre said. “Getting to be around those guys where we probably wouldn’t have to begin with, I think is something good. A lot to learn from people who have been playing at such a high level.”
Matthew is staying strong and active with something he calls ‘Yard Time’ and going to his Aunt and Uncle’s place who own a squat rack, among other weights.
Ethan has a batting cage in his back yard and is still hitting, throwing, and catching to stay in shape.
The MLB draft starts June 10 and lasts until June 12.