Baseball for me has always been about looking to the future. The next pitch, the next game, the next year, the next school. You can never live in the moment because you are always preparing for what is ahead. Starting from tee ball when I was 6 years old, baseball has been my life. I have created memories and formed friendships that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Unfortunately, we all know that there will be a day that the journey must end and you will hang up your cap for the last time. That surreal moment came this spring for my SJC Long Isaland teammates and I — a lot sooner than we had all anticipated.
This season was particularly special for me for — it is my senior year and this would be my one opportunity to play for the Eagles. Before transferring to St. Joseph’s, I played baseball at Suffolk County Community College. I didn’t have a major role on that team freshman year, but sophomore year I had the best year of my career.
During the 2018 season, I led my team in stolen bases and hit .369. Transferring to St. Joseph’s was my number one choice, as they were a local Division III school where I could get a great education and have the opportunity to play ball with my best friend since high school, Tim Woodford.
Unfortunately, tryouts for the 2019 baseball team did not go as I planned. I didn’t make the team. This was the first time I had ever been cut from a baseball team. It was one of those moments that you cannot process what had happened because you were so ready for things to go a certain way. Nevertheless, I knew I had one last shot at playing baseball. I needed to make this team my senior year.
I had worked harder than I ever had before to prove to not only the coaches that I was good enough, but to myself. I arrived at the 2020 baseball tryouts like a ball of fire and made the team. Seeing my name on the final roster list after it had not been there last year filled me with pride and fulfillment. If you work hard, you can accomplish what you set your mind to.
Finally, I thought, this is the last year I get to play ball with my best friend. Going on away games, our spring training trip, playoffs, there was so much to look forward to.
SJC Long Island’s 2020 baseball team was something special. This team had a certain chemistry that I had never been a part of before. Not only was this the most talented team I’ve ever played for on the field, but the dynamic we had as friends off the field produced a chemistry that couldn’t be put together on just talent alone.
Going into our winter workouts, we all had the same exact goal, to be the last team standing in May. On Jan. 21, we started practicing six days a week in preparation for this upcoming season. For some guys, including myself, it was to be our last year of organized baseball. Every little league game, middle school game, high school game, all came down to this last season.
As each day of winter workouts passed, I knew my days were counting down and I was soaking up every bit of it. Every push-up, every sprint and every ground ball taken was with purpose. This was the time to lay everything out on the line and enjoy my last year of college ball ever with this team.
Opening day comes and the thrill of putting that uniform on and stepping into that batter’s box is something that could never be replicated. The season was underway and it was just days until our spring training trip to play in Arizona. We had looked forward to this trip since the fall of 2019, when our head coach had told us where we were going.
Six days spent across the country, playing on beautiful baseball fields in the perfect west coast weather of Arizona is every ballplayer’s dream spring break.
Back in January, we had first heard of the coronavirus, but never did we think that it would have any effect on our season. As time passed, March arrived and this one thing that seemed to be nothing more than a slight inconvenience had turned into something much more serious and took us all by surprise.
The month of March was the most devastating month for any senior playing college baseball across the country (really, for any senior finishing the winter season or playing spring sports). We were four days away from getting on a plane to Arizona. I was sitting in class when our coach sent us all a text saying that the trip had been canceled. It was the most disappointing news I had ever heard.
Being so close to something you had looked forward to for months was suddenly ripped right from your fingers and there wasn’t a thing you could do about it. You just had to accept it and move on. As a team you have to face any adversity that comes your way and push through it together. Little did we know that the biggest bomb was about to be dropped on us.
Within seven days, our trip to Arizona was suspended, shortly followed by the suspension of the 2020 baseball season. Canceling the trip was heartbreaking enough, but to stop the entire season and never know what the potential for my team and I could have been was the most gut wrenching feeling I’ve ever experienced.
Our team was unique, our team was special, and to have worked countless hours in the cage and on the ball field all for it to be stripped away infected you with this feeling of powerlessness. No amount of push ups, sprints, or balls off a tee could get our season back, our season we all worked so hard in preparation for, my last season.
Senior year was much anticipated for many reasons. I am eager to graduate and get my degree, but like all the other seniors on the team, I was taking in every day enjoying this ride just one last time. Having the season fall right through our grasp was a tough pill to swallow, but I guess like anything in life, you never truly know when you’re going to have to hang up your cap for good.
Michael Pascuzzi is a senior majoring in criminal justice at SJC Long Island. He lives in Commack.