After spending his fall under the Friday Night Lights, and his winter on the hardwood, Baker High School senior Spencer Shirtcliff was excited to find himself heading back to the baseball diamond. After a strong season last spring, he knew his development was vital to the team’s success.
“I played a whole summer after my regular season my junior year, and found myself back in the cages a couple of months before the season was supposed to start,” Shirtcliff said.
As the team prepared for the season, Shirtcliff and his teammates were excited to face the opponents on their schedule. When the Oregon School Activities Association announced it was following the executive order made by Gov. Kate Brown, all sports ceased operations due to COVID-19, which effectively ended spring sports on April 8.
“I was kind of in shock,” Shirtcliff said. “I actually really didn’t believe it at first. We hadn’t really been hit by it so I didn’t think it was that bad.”
Now that this season is lost, what hurts student-athletes the most is the growth they could have accomplished in competition — something that head baseball coach Tim Smith sees as a problem for his graduating seniors and the rest of his team.
“Everyone lost something, you don’t miss a season without having an impact to not be able to be there and at least practice,” Smith said.
That is definitely the case for Shirtcliff, who is currently speaking with small colleges in the area for a chance to possibly play baseball on the collegiate level.
“He’s looking at Blue Mountain Community College,” Smith said. “The coach is supposed to be calling me.”
Coaches like Smith are now facing hurdles of getting up-to-date film and content to help their student athletes who have mutual interest in playing their sport at a college.
“They are always interested in how they will compete and we haven’t been able to do that,” Smith said.
Shirtcliff knows that the loss this year puts him at a disadvantage, as many of these schools were interested to see how his senior season was going to turn out.
“It really sucks, my fellow seniors and I were planning on having a really good year,” Shirtcliff said. “I was hoping to have a year like last year, but go deeper in the playoffs.”
Though his future career in baseball remains uncertain, Shirtcliff is motivated now more than ever to have his time on the diamond end on his terms, and will play next year.
“It does make me want to play at the next level even more because I have unfinished business,” Shirtcliff said.
He hopes that student-athletes who are younger than him will not let the pandemic dictate their effort, and that they will continue to practice and work hard to be ready to compete in their respective sport.
“They need to not see this as a disadvantage and keep working,” Shirtcliff said. “They need to try and not make it as bad as it is and prove themselves.”