ROGERSVILLE, Mo. — The Show-Me Collegiate League in Ozark is already the only summer college baseball league playing in the country.
Now, high school baseball is also returning to the area.
“Oh, so good,” Willard Baseball Senior and Missouri Southern State signee Grant Harris said about returning to the diamond. “I mean, obviously we had to spend so much time apart. Just being around the guys again and joking again, it just feels normal.”
The games are a put on by the Springfield Area Baseball Association, or SABA.
It’s a non-profit that’s been organizing summer club baseball in the Springfield area since 1975.
For teams like Willard and Logan-Rogersville, it’s a chance for the season that never happened.
“Oh, I mean it was very disappointing,” Willard Senior Tyler Harre said. “This is a season we’ve been looking forward to since middle school, our senior year. Always talked about going to State, you know? After it was canceled, it was heartbreaking.”
“That’s the big deal,” Logan-Rogersville Baseball Head Coach Casey Ledl said. “We had a pretty senior latent group. We thought we’d be pretty sharp. We really thought we had a pretty good chance. We’re going to end up starting six or seven newcomers next year so getting these reps all summer long is a huge huge deal, especially for those younger guys.”
Those reps are valuable in different ways.
For Willard Seniors Ethan Thompson, Tyler Harre, Grant Harris and Garrett Rice it’s about preparing for the jump to the college level.
“With how long we took off, even just seeing live is going to knock the rust off a little bit and get ready to go up there and compete at a high level,” Willard Senior and Mizzou signee Garrett Rice said.
For some of the underclassmen, however, it’s about putting on that varsity jersey for the first time.
“Obviously, some of the college guys that are playing it’s to get us ready for college,” Willard Senior and Missouri Southern State signee Ethan Thompson said. “But, at the same time, it’s almost to be put in a leadership role. A lot of these kids, I think there was four or five guys in the lineup tonight that have ever seen a varsity at-bat.”
“For some of these younger guys to really put on a varsity uniform, that’s just a huge deal,” Coach Ledl said. “You can play summer ball all you want, but there’s just something intensity wise that’s different about the Spring. The mental aspect, it’s just different. To get them to kind of have, we were really taking the approach that we want it to be as close to Spring as we possibly can.”
But while some of these kids wear it for the first time, others wear it for the last.
“I love Willard,” Rice said. “This is the last time I get to wear Willard on my chest, I’m just going to go out, have fun, play my heart out and just enjoy the time with the guys I have left.”
Enjoying the time, and making Senior year memories they almost never got.