BELLE GLADE — On April 1 the Glades Central Raiders varsity baseball team was supposed to be in the middle of their season and getting ready to head to Glades Day to take on their longtime rival Gators. Instead, both teams are at home and Glades Central seniors may have already unknowingly played their last game of high school baseball.
Raiders head coach Rene Leon has been in contact with his players and says they’ve understandably been disappointed.
“They’re struggling with wanting to be on the baseball field,” said Leon. “We communicate about three to four times a week, and I’m just trying to keep them lifted up during this time. Just letting them know that everything is going to be all right. I’ve been encouraging my seniors to finish strong in school.”
The Raiders played their last game on March 12 against Leonard. Like other teams around the lake, Glades Central had their spring break around mid-March. So players were already expecting a break.
But now it’s starting to look like they won’t be returning from that break.
Late in the afternoon on March 30, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran advised superintendents during a conference call that he was recommending schools stay closed until May 1.
The Raiders’ last game of the regular season was scheduled for April 24.
“Three of my five seniors were hitting over .350 before the break,” Leon explained. “They were on pace to make the first team all-district, so that was a big blow for us. I’m hoping we’re able to do a game at least for the seniors so they can do their last official senior game. Every year I do a senior night where we will go into the gymnasium and have a little party for the seniors. We’ll eat, bond, parents will come in and seniors receive a gift. This year there may be a chance the kids might not be able to experience that.”
The other downside from the season being lost is that seniors will miss out on the opportunity to make an impression on colleges offering scholarships for baseball.
“These last 10 games were going to be very important for them to maybe get offered or be able to showcase their able to play collegiate baseball,” Leon said of his seniors playing their last season. “With this going on I don’t know what the future holds for them. But I’m going to do everything in my power to try and get them offers from different colleges or get them a chance to showcase one last time that they’re able to play collegiate baseball.”
While the missing season has the most obvious effect on seniors, underclassmen will also miss out on almost of full year of development in varsity baseball. Leon has connections to travel ball teams on the east coast of Florida that he plans to encourage his players to play in to help them gain experience over the summer. But there’s a chance even that may be delayed or postponed indefinitely, depending on how long the pandemic lasts.
The Raiders were coming off a successful season last year. For the first time in the program’s history, the Raiders were able to beat Glades Day. After falling to the Gators every year, not only did the Raiders beat them in 2019, they swept them, winning 9-6 and 5-4 in two games about a month apart.
This year Leon described the team as rebuilding and stacked with young, promising players. Could that young Raiders team have beaten the 6-4 Glades Day Gators for the only the third time in Glades Central history on April 1?
Maybe. Maybe not. For now it looks like we won’t get the chance to find out.