By Cara Cooper
Bulletin Sports Editor
Magna Vista’s baseball team went through a transition year last year under first year head coach Sam Suite.
Suite said last year, as he expected, there was hesitancy from his players who didn’t know his coaching style. This season, though, after two scrimmages he saw a group that had bought into the system and was clicking on all cylinders. It was fun for him and his coaching staff to see a team that was playing well as a unit.
Magna Vista will return the bulk of that team next year, but the VHSL’s decision to cancel the spring sports season was a shock to Suite who was excited for this year and his four seniors.
“It just felt surreal. It really does feel surreal right now,” Suite said by phone this week. “All the work that the kids put in, all the time that we put in and now the seniors don’t get to go out and play that last year, it truly is heartbreaking for those guys.”
The Virginia High School League announced on Monday that all spring sports and activities in the state will be cancelled this season after Governor Ralph Northam announced that all schools in the state of Virginia would remain closed through the end of the academic year.
The season was initially postponed just a few days before the first games were going to be played on March 16, so no local schools got a chance to play a single real game.
The Warriors had been practicing three days a week since Christmas, as soon as they got the green light from Magna Vista Athletic Director John Gibbs to get together.
“We put a lot of work in and those seniors were there every single day. They were the leaders this year,” Suite said.
Suite said he understands the VHSL’s decision to cancel sports given the dangers of the coronavirus, and he said the most important thing is keeping the kids and their families safe.
But almost immediately after the decision was announced, Suite was trying to come up with alternate ways to honor his 2020 senior class.
The Warriors had four seniors on this years roster, three of which were already committed to play baseball in college – Colton Stegall and Hudson Rowe at Averett University, and Nicholas Page at Bluedfield College — and another, Freddie Roberts, who was toying with possibly playing either baseball or football at the next level. Given his players largely had their college plans already set, Suite said it was good to know they wouldn’t be missing any valuable recruiting time this season.
“It’s not like they needed it, but of course they would have loved to enjoyed that last ride,” Suite said. “The thing that shakes my brain is how much they have grown from last year to this year and the maturity level has just grown on and off the field. … They listened, they were disciplined. If you told them to make an adjustment they did it. It was really special to watch that.”
Thinking back to his own senior night in basketball and baseball in high school and baseball again in college, there’s so much more to those days, Suite said, than just playing a game. He hopes he can give his players a day like that, even if they’re not playing a full season.
“That was one of the things that went through my mind immediately. How do I give these guys what they deserve?” he said. “I just think back to my senior night and how special it was for my mom and my dad especially to walk me on the field after all those years of traveling to tournaments and games and practices and buying cleats, buying clothes, all that. You could see the gratitude there and how special that moment was for them when they walked me out on the field.
“You look at your parents and you realize, ‘wow, I couldn’t have done this without you.’ All that hard work I did, all the work I put in since I was five years old to now, this is what it’s all about right here. It’s an unbelievable feeling and I absolutely want to give those guys something.”
Suite and his staff have talked about a couple of ideas for ways to honor the seniors, but don’t have any definite plans as of yet. The most important thing is riding out the virus and waiting for a time they can all be together again.
And when the Warriors are able to get back on the field, Suite believes his team will be just as ready to play as they were at the end of their two scrimmages. While he was initially worried about what would happen for his younger players’ development given a lost year, he’s glad they all play throughout the summer and fall in other leagues. He’s also going to make sure they’re doing workouts together as often as they can.
“I think the future is going to be bright for Magna Vista baseball,” he said. “Just need to see the positives in all of it.”