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Hot Rods Helping High School Seniors Overcome the Curveball Thrown by COVID-19

Lisa Autry

Some baseball players from the Class of 2020 haven’t played their last game just yet.  Although the coronavirus canceled their senior season, some Warren and Logan County high school baseball players have a final chance to take the diamond this weekend courtesy of the Bowling Green Hot Rods. 

Among them will be Ethan Gregory, 18, who was heading into his senior season of baseball at Greenwood High School.  He says it was going to be “their year”.

“We were looking forward to this season. We thought we were going to be the top dogs," he told WKU Public Radio. "We just had it all put together this season. We worked hard in the off season, so it was rough.”

Jason Jaggers, head baseball coach at Greenwood High School in Warren County, says his players were shocked at the beginning of the season by all the cancellations caused by COVID-19, but they held out hope the season would just be delayed.

“When that didn’t come to fruition, it was tough on all of us, our team in particular. We had some high expectations going into this season. It was tough for them," Jaggers said. "You always try to prepare them to understand and play like every game like it’s going to be their last, but unfortunately, we didn’t understand that ours was actually going to be a scrimmage.”

Some baseball seniors will get to lace up their cleats one last time after all this weekend.  The Hot Rods, Bowling Green’s minor league team, is hosting Senior Showcase on Saturday, July 25.  The players will take the field at Bowling Green Ballpark for a final turn at bat.  

"For me as a dad and sports fan, for the seniors who lost their season, not having that closure, that final game," said Eric Leach, general manager of the Hot Rods. "That’s what this is all about, a positive memory for them to end their careers with.”

The game will feature senior athletes from Greenwood, Warren East, Warren Central, and South Warren, as well as some players from Logan County High School.  Lance Upright, 18, is a graduate of Greenwood High who will play baseball for Western Kentucky University in the fall.  Anticipating a memorable senior season, he wasn’t ready for the curve ball thrown by the coronavirus.

“We had really looked forward to it. We thought we were going to be a really good team this year and then when it got taken from us, it hit really hard," Upright said. "It took some time to find peace with it, but I think this event will give a little bit of closure to everybody, so that’s good for us.”

Leach said despite the unprecedented times, the recent graduates deserve the proper sendoff.

“We’re doing the headshots of every player. We’re doing full all-star introductions to where every player gets their name mentioned and they get to run out, and even post-game fireworks," explained Leach. "We’re treating this as much like a Hot Rods game as we can.”

Connor Maddox, 18,  is another Greenwood graduate who’s relishing the chance to play one more game with friends and his parents in the stands.

“Along with me being upset about the season being canceled, so are my parents," Maddox said. "They love watching us play. We’re all really good friends. It hurt them when it got taken from us. I think they’re excited to watch us play together and just have fun again.”

Tickets for the Senior Showcase on Saturday are still on sale to the general public. With the COVID-19 restrictions, capacity will be 1,500 people.  The gates will open up at 5:30 p.m. and first pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. 

Guests will be asked to wear masks, have their temperatures taken, and take a socially distanced seat--just another curve ball in the game of life during the pandemic.

Some audio for this report was provided courtesy of Hot Rods Productions.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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