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Column: Senior year, graduation week provide lasting memories

The views of the author are not necessarily the views of AllOnGeorgia.

High school graduations are upon us locally and also statewide.

Brunswick High and Glynn Academy will hold their graduation ceremonies in the coming days.

Frederica Academy held its graduation this past Saturday. That made for a crazy weekend filled with lots of travel for the school’s soccer teams which played in the state semifinals last Friday at Mercer University in Macon and then returned home later that night to be here for the graduation exercise the next morning.

For the Frederica boys that meant jumping back on the school’s bus to return to Macon following the morning ceremony to play in the Georgia Independent School Association state final last Saturday evening. The Knights lost 1-0 to perennial state power Westminster which won its fifth consecutive state title.

You have to wonder if the Knights weren’t maybe a little leg-weary after all the time spent driving back and forth along the highway and possibly could have gotten off more powerful shots to sneak a few past the opposing goal keeper had they had more fire in their kicking legs.

Now this week, the seniors on the school’s baseball team are done with school, but they will suit up for the Knights for one last hurrah this weekend in the GISA Class 3A state finals against Trinity Christian-Sharpsburg which also are slated to be played at Mercer.

I would think it might feel a little strange to still be playing high school baseball after already turning the tassel to signal the end of high-school life and to begin the next phase in their journey.

Then again, maybe this baseball series will just be a part of summer fun before the next chapter really begins for the seniors in August when they pack their bags and leave home for college.

As a high school baseball player, I didn’t get the chance to play in a state final much less take the field in one the week of graduation like some who compete in the Georgia High School Association have this week. I’m sure an already hectic week was that and then some for all of the graduating seniors on the field in the state championship series played across the state.

Many years from now I am sure they will look back on their graduation week with fond memories especially those who ended up on the winning side of their championship series.

I have lasting memories from my graduation week and also my senior baseball season. The last week in high school was better than the last season on the diamond without question.

I had big goals for my team and myself for my senior year, but my personal aspirations such as hitting .400 and getting into the Glynn County .400 Club pretty much when down the tubes the afternoon early in the season when I broke my left thumb sliding into home plate at Benedictine.

To make a long story short, I spent the rest of the season playing with a contraption on my left hand to protect the thumb which severely limited my ability to turn over my wrist while batting.

And ultimately, my playoff plans for the team didn’t materialize in the season’s final week when we lost a one-run game against Windsor Forest in Savannah and then a few days later we also lost to Effingham County in the first game of a three-team playoff that also included Bradwell Institute to see who made the playoffs.

Against Windsor Forest, I hurt my thumb again in the bottom of the sixth and had to leave the game. I sat in the dugout with my thumb in a cooler full of ice trying to numb it so I could bat in the top of the seventh. I was actually in the on-deck circle when the game ended and have always wondered what might have happened had I gotten to bat.

Would I have made the last out? Would I have hit a walk-off homer run or would I have reached base with a walk, on an error or a hit to keep the inning alive?

When we faced off with the Rebels a few days later, my thumb still hurt something fierce. I took batting practice and tried to play but hit two weak groundballs to second base and Coach pulled me before my next at-bat, knowing that I was hurting and just couldn’t give the team a productive plate appearance. It wasn’t a good way to end my high-school career to say the least.

But like they say, playing sports teaches you life-lessons and that year was a lesson in dealing with and responding to adversity for me.

Since then, I’ve succeeded many times in the face of adverse situations and I’ve also failed a good many times, too. But that senior-year experience always provides a base example for me in those tough times.

And for the record, other than what happened on the baseball field, my senior year was full of great experiences and memories made with classmates and life-long friends.

Graduation week was very much a part of that. We didn’t rent a party house, but we did keep with tradition then and ganged up in a few hotel rooms on Jekyll Island the night of our graduation.

One thing we did that night was play a Nintendo baseball tournament which was the first of many that summer.

Earlier that week, we went to the beach, hung out around the pool at friends’ houses, played pick-up basketball, attended summer baseball practice and made a trip to Jacksonville to the dog track.

Of course, we had graduation practice four straight days, which was a little much, but we knew what we were supposed to do on graduation night for sure.

Me, I was a little on edge all week because I had to give a speech at the graduation ceremony. It was the first time I ever spoke in front of a large crowd like that, and I just remember the feeling of relief when I was finished and sat back in my seat on stage for the rest of the ceremony.

Again, I’m nowhere near being called a great public speaker, but I’ve always felt if I could do it in high school then I can do it now.

To this year’s graduating seniors, I say congratulations on making it to this point and wish you luck going forward in life.

Hopefully, the seniors who competed in athletics definitely got more out of the experience than fun wins and good moments like hitting a game-winning shot or rushing for the game-winning touchdown.

All that is certainly nice but hopefully you gained knowledge and experience that can help you going forward.

I did, and I think my teammates would tell you they did as well.

Without question, we formed relationships with each other that are long lasting even though we don’t see each other every day anymore in the school hallways or around the batting cage like we once did.

Now, though, we are only a phone call away. (Well, that could be a text or Facebook message away, too.)

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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