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By Joanna Chadwick
Kapaun Mount Carmel senior AJ Stallard often hits off the tee in his garage. He lives close to a baseball field, so he can work with a friend catching bullpen, focusing on his framing and blocking.
But it’s not the same.
“The games are unpredictable, so no matter how many repetitions you get, it can change in a matter of seconds,” said Stallard, who is a catcher. “It’s a big difference being in a game and practicing three hours.”
The Kansas State High School Activities Association canceled the spring sports season due to COVID-19.
That decision not only ended Stallard’s senior season, but it ended the track season for his twin sister, Alexis, who throws the javelin.
“It was a sobering moment,” Alexis said. “I did a lot of things for the last time and I didn’t know I was doing them for the last time. I hit the weight room for the last time and didn’t know it. I ran on the track for the last time and I didn’t know it. I had a team dinner for the last time and I didn’t know it.
“All the things you take for granted and then you lose them.”
While AJ will play baseball at Central Christian College in McPherson, Alexis is done playing sports.
That was difficult, as well, because Alexis’ sophomore season was cut short due to an arm injury. She missed her junior season of bowling when it turned out she had a massive bone growth in her socket and it had to be shaved down.
“I already missed a season, so I wanted a last chance,” she said. “I wanted to finish it, get that final year. It was disappointing to start practicing and then have it be gone.”
Part of the disappointment is the camaraderie that comes with being a part of a team disappeared without any notice.
“I just saw it as a really good opportunity to meet people, play a fun game and have a good time while I’m at it,” AJ said. “… I entered the season looking forward to all the benefits — the senior game, having my poster hung up at Kapaun. It broke my heart.”
AJ shared some advice for any future athletes who could lose their season.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “Nothing is promised. I showed up every single day. I didn’t act like it was my last one playing baseball. That will last the rest of my life — nothing is promised. So take advantage of opportunities.
“I didn’t think COVID would be as bad as it is now. I walked onto the field — no way they can cancel an entire season. And here I am, no baseball and it’s almost May.”