And while home runs, home plate and home-field advantage won’t have the same meaning, the Warriors can be comforted in knowing even their fiercest rivals are willing to reach out a helping hand in their time of need.
Happy Valley, which opened the year Monday with a game at Sullivan Central, lost Cannon-Gouge Park for the season because of the recent massive flooding. But the Warriors have been able to use many different practice facilities in the area, including those of rivals Elizabethton and Unicoi County.
“The coaches in the area have been extremely helpful,” said Happy Valley coach Brad Hill. “(Elizabethton coach) Ryan Presnell said it best when he said the baseball coaching community is a brotherhood. We may be conference and county rivals, but in our time of need numerous coaches have offered aid.
“The places we have practiced are just a handful of places that have offered assistance. We have been offered field or cage time at nearly every conference opponent and county rival. Those programs are great examples of what community is all about. Our players are blessed to live in an area that can put those rivalries aside in a situation like this.
“And the players at the schools offering help are lucky to have the men leading their programs,” Hill added. “They are setting a great example for the young men in their program.”
Keep in mind the measure of kindness involved. Donating the use of a baseball field is different than a basketball gym because of the amount of time it takes to maintain the baseball diamond after additional practices.
Hill said he knows it will be difficult this year for his team.
“It is going to be a trying year, not having a true home field,” Hill said. “But the kids have been very resilient. We’ve had to bounce around from place to place for practice. We’ve been to Unicoi County, RBI Baseball, Milligan College, Joe O’Brien and Upper Deck for practices.
“And my assistant coaches have been great through the whole process, helping transport kids and equipment where we go.”
The Warriors will be able to bat last during games at Milligan’s field, TVA Credit Union Ballpark and Joe O’Brien Field. But the chances of getting on the field at Cannon-Gouge Park are almost nil.
“Carolina Greens Athletics Fields came by last week to take pictures and measurements to give an estimate,” Hill said. “They didn’t seem to think there was any way to get the field ready for this season.”
Hill said there is a still a question about what insurance will and won’t cover. He said the school should have an answer later this week.
Happy Valley’s adjacent softball field was also flooded, but Hill said the Lady Warriors’ playing surface didn’t experience the same amount of damage.
“They have switched their March home games to away games,” he said.
When University High takes the field before each inning, baseball coach Josh Petty carries a feeling of comfort that first base is covered. Basically he knows the answer to the age-old baseball question, “Who’s on first?”
“One spot on the diamond I never have to worry about is first base,” Petty noted. “Brant Hare has only two errors in 70 games the past two seasons — one of which he will argue because the pitcher did not cover on a ball he bobbled.”
The Buccaneers, who reached the TSSAA Class A tournament last season, opened the 2019 campaign with a home doubleheader against Cloudland on Monday.
Breanna O’Shields and Gabby Rambo made their choices official last week. O’Shields signed to play volleyball with Brevard College while Gabby Rambo signed to play beach volleyball with Tusculum College.
Connor Morgan will compete at the next level. He signed last week with Milligan’s track program.
Nathan McBride made his decision last week. He signed to be a thrower with the Lincoln Memorial University track team.
John Ramsey will make his decision Wednesday. He has narrowed his choices to Brevard or Erskine for a football deal. The signing will be at 11 a.m. at the high school.
Two athletes will sign college papers Wednesday. Adam Davison will join King University for basketball and Rebecca Glover will sign with Milligan for track and cross country. The ceremony is at 2:30 at the high school.
It’s only word of mouth and returning experience, but here’s the first look at the Baseball Top 10 for the 2019 season:
1. Tennessee High
2. Science Hill
5. Daniel Boone
6. Sullivan East
7. Sullivan South
8. University High
9. David Crockett
Here’s is a sneak preview in the form of the first Softball Top 10 of the season:
1. Daniel Boone
2. David Crockett
3. Science Hill
4. Sullivan East
5. Unicoi County
8. Johnson County
9. Tennessee High