Spring is right around the corner, and that means only one thing at Presbyterian College: Baseball is back on the menu.
America’s greatest pastime lies at the heart of Clinton nearly a year after the 2020 season was canceled. Athletes of the Month Zacchaeus Rasberry and Eric Miles, both seniors at the time, felt the sting of loss and uncertainty that had befallen college athletics across the board.
An entire season wiped out amidst a global Coronavirus pandemic—these are the sort of unprecedented times people will someday read about in textbooks.
“For every baseball player and spring athlete in the county, it was just a huge shock,” said Rasberry. “Especially in the months of March and April, you don’t really know how to feel. Of course, you’re upset because the season was over—not only for yourself but for everybody else as well.”
But spring is also the season of rebirth.
Soon it’ll be back to rolling green hills, vibrant pastures, and warm, sun-filled days. It’ll be back to the nostalgic smells of dirt, freshly mowed grass, sunflower seeds, and hotdogs sizzling on the concession stand grill. And who can forget the sounds of whipping fastballs, bubblegum popping, and bats crackling on connection with a cowhide?
For Rasberry and Miles, it’ll be back to business.
Both have chosen to take their fifth-year option and return on the heels of a disappointing ending to the 2020 season. Not only did Covid-19 throw a monkey wrench in their plans, but the team was also 2-14 before the NCAA pulled the plug.
“I didn’t want to finish my college career on the season that we had the previous year based on the way things were going and how it ended,” said Miles. “I wanted to come back and be able to finish things on my terms.
“I think a lot of what influenced my decision was the coaching staff. I just kept thinking back to four years ago when I was coming out of high school. They had faith in me and wanted me to be here. They still want me here. I felt like I have a lot of loyalty towards the school, and I wanted to show my appreciation towards the coaches for giving me an opportunity to play here in the first place.”
Rasberry wanted to return just as much as Miles, but it took a little longer for him to come around to making a decision. There were so many concerns over scholarship money and whether the decision would work out financially.
He finished all of his credits and was ready to graduate from school. His parents were with him every step of the way to offer guidance, but they ultimately left the decision in his hands. In the end, he felt like he had unfinished business at PC.
“I felt like I wasn’t really finished with PC in terms of baseball,” Rasberry said. “Coach P (Elton Pollock) welcomed me with open arms and said he wanted me back. Having an opportunity to play for him and alongside my teammates for another year greatly influenced my decision to come back.”
Tomorrow isn’t promised in a sport that student-athletes like Rasberry and Miles spend their entire childhood playing.
Every kid that grows up with a ball in their hands dreams of one day playing in the big leagues, but those opportunities are limited, and not everyone is going to get a chance to compete at the professional level. That alone makes these collegiate moments extra special. It’s the culmination of a lifetime of work for some that will never play the game again.
For the Blue Hose’s two stars, it’s a chance to reminisce on how their journey started.
“If it wasn’t for my dad, I don’t know if I ever would have picked up a baseball,” Miles said. “I’ve been throwing in the yard since I was a little kid. I had a little toy glove and just kind of moved to a real glove when I started playing Tee Ball. I eventually moved on to recreational ball, travel ball, and high school. The sport was just so much fun, you know?”
Rasberry can certainly relate to being out in the yard and playing catch with his dad. He also knows a thing or two about travel teams. That grind isn’t lost on young players with a hope of one day playing collegiately.
There’s also this genuine love for the game.
“I’ve been playing organized baseball since I was about four years old,” said Rasberry. “Baseball is just a really different sport. It’s an individual type of sport within a team sport. Just how you can fail more times than you can succeed and still win games is a concept few people are drawn to. But I’ve always found it to be pretty cool and unique.”
That love for baseball carried them through grade school all the way up to an opportunity to continue their careers in college. Rasberry admits he started off wanting to attend one of the bigger schools, but that line of thinking changed as he got older and started looking at the bigger picture.
“I realized how much my parents dedicated to me playing sports, and then I started to reconsider my choices,” said Rasberry. “My parents came to every game and even took days off work to travel long distances just to watch me play baseball. I didn’t want to pick a school so far away that they couldn’t travel to see my games. My decision came down to me wanting to repay them for all of the sacrifices they made to put me in this position. PC was not only closer than other schools, it also has that little home feeling to it. Something that’s very important to me.”
The word “home” gets thrown around often, but there’s something about PC that has made it the perfect comparison for both Rasberry and Miles.
“It kind of felt like home,” said Miles. “That area is similar to my hometown. It’s not too big, and it was also close enough for me to sneak off to my parents’ house from time to time for a good home-cooked meal.”
Both Rasberry and Miles have their reasons for choosing PC, and they also have their reasons for staying for a fifth year. Spring might be the season of rebirth, but this is also the end of a chapter for both players.
Whether their baseball careers resume at the next level remains to be seen. But this is an opportunity for them to complete the journey they were denied nearly a year ago. It’s a chance to come together as a team and finish what they started.
It’s also a moment to answer the one question that comes along with a final collegiate season: What comes after baseball?
“I hope to be able to keep playing ball after the season is over, but if that doesn’t work out, I plan on going back to school and hopefully becoming an attorney one day,” said Miles.
Although Rasberry has already been in touch with several professional teams, he still plans on soaking up every moment of the upcoming season as if it’s his last.
“Hopefully, I’ll be playing baseball for a long time, but I’m already eyeing construction management if things don’t work out,” Rasberry said. “I’ve been doing internships for a local company in South Carolina.”
For now at least, one last dance awaits Rasberry, Miles, and the rest of the Blue Hose on the diamond for the 2021 season. The return of the sights, smells, and sounds of a sport that was taken away are the perfect reminders to be thankful.
A “new normal” is better than no normal at all.