Graduation will close a chapter

Last Thursday, after weeks and weeks of hard work and practice, Sebring High School’s baseball season came to an end. We reached the regional tournament before losing to Mitchell High School 4-1. I was disappointed to lose the game, but this loss was very emotional for a different reason. This loss marked the end of each high school baseball career for every member of the senior class. These eight seniors will graduate in a few weeks, but I’ve played baseball with all of them since I was just a little kid. We all started in T-ball together and were teammates and competitors through pitching machine, Dixie Youth, travel ball and eventually high school baseball. These guys are my brothers, and, after last Thursday, I will never play another game with them. Sebring is a baseball town. It always has been. The local baseball fields off of Hammock Road are perpetually in use by youth teams and fathers with their sons. My friends and I grew up on these fields learning the game of baseball and building bonds along the way. We’ve experienced success and failure, worked together through injuries, and helped each other with our fair share of girl problems. Newspaper clippings chronicle our journey as we traveled for weekend double-headers, state tournaments and even a national tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y. When the season began, I knew it would end eventually. Because of this, I tried to have as much fun with the seniors as I could. The conversations and shenanigans that took place in our locker room over the past couple months are some of my favorite memories from high school so far. As the season winded down, we all became aware of how fleeting our time was. The seniors’ last game was fast approaching and graduation would be soon after that.
I was ready for the sadness that would come with last Thursday’s game, but now that it has passed, graduation seems like it will be the real blow. Baseball is only a game. We often make it out to be more than that, but life has a funny way of setting your priorities straight. All this time I was worried about not being able to play baseball with my friends when the season was over, but now I’ve realized that after graduation, I may not see some of them at all. These seniors that I have grown up with will be thrown into the real world in only a few weeks. Some will move on to college, some will spend their time at a job and all will be chasing dreams that they’ve had for years. I knew our run as teammates would eventually come to an end, but I’ve just come to realize that some of the friendships I’ve built over the years might be in jeopardy, too. This year’s senior class will be the first graduating class I was genuinely close to. Tons of my friends and many of my closest friends will be graduating and moving on to bigger things. The real significance of last Thursday’s baseball game was that it opened my eyes to how fast time is moving. The graduation of this year’s seniors seemed light years away. Once it comes and goes, my graduation will be just around the corner. “Growing up” has always been such a distant idea for me. Seeing the friends and teammates I have spent much of my life with reach graduation and college makes me feel a little grown up, and it makes me a little scared to grow up any more.