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Digital Exclusive: Recognizing the boys of summer

POTTSVILLE, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — “We were finishing up our scrimmage and it got announced that we weren’t going to be playing and we weren’t even allowed to shake hands with the other team. It was just upsetting.” Pottsville Area third baseman Ryan Lindenmuth said.

Just like back in March, many across the nation and commonwealth were robbed of three years of hard work. But summer and Pennsylvania reopening meant a second chance for some. A special legion baseball game in Pottsville. A special sendoff for seniors who lost their final season.

“It feels great to be back. I was dying through the whole quarantine thing just to get back onto the field. We’re finally back and playing good,” Lindenmuth said.

American Legion is following social distancing guidelines and in full swing. It’s an opportunity for many like Tamaqua Area’s Tate Ligenza who were hoping for more.

“This year we were actually looking at a pretty decent team. Last year we had a rough year but I think we definitely gained a lot with the younger kids. So we were looking at a good season, I believe. It sucked,” Ligenza said.

Though two months off any official diamond? Work still being put in.

“During quarantine me and my dad would actually go throw a couple times a week because I’m a pitcher so, just in case the legion season happened. Coach Jimmy texted me and said we’re possibly getting a team together so I went out and threw it a couple times a week which helped so it’s not like I was off for two months,” Ligenza said.

Scores of seniors missing out, but luckily committed. Nativity’s Jake Ferhat getting some last reps in Schuylkill County before heading off to the University of Tampa.

“It was unfortunate I think we were all looking forward to it, everybody from every school. But we’re very lucky to have a legion season like this and play some baseball. I’m with a great team and playing against some good competition. It’s very fun,” Ferhat said.

Many other high school athletics postponed, cancelled and being re-evaluated. A change of lanes for Tamaqua Eagle Christopher Osenbach.

“I actually ran track for the high school so just being able to play a sport in general and being able to come out and do something is a blast. I haven’t played baseball in three years but it’s nice to be able to come back out and play. I love this sport,” Osenbach said.

For many in this game, a baseball senior recognition night. For Chris? More of a spring sports sendoff. In either case? A touching tribute.

“It’s something you look forward to your whole high school athletic career. Especially tonight, I know we have a couple people coming out just to watch us, support us and stuff like that. It’s something we don’t get a lot in legion so that’s super cool,” Osenbach said.

Shenandoah Valley’s Jake Thomas missed out on his entire senior year of athletics after being injured in the first game on the football gridiron. He was medically cleared to hit the diamond just before the shutdown.

“I woke up in the morning that schools are cancelled for the rest of the year and I thought ‘wow, it’s over.’ Wouldn’t be able to play baseball or even go to school anymore. It touched my heart a little bit,” Thomas said.

Some last cracks of the bat before college with class and teammates.

“It means a lot. This is going to be my last time wearing this jersey so it’s going to be special. There’s a couple of kids from Shenandoah who still have another couple of seasons to go and I know they’re going to look forward to it but for me? To wear this one more time means a lot to me,” Thomas said.

The boys of summer understand just how lucky they are to be suiting up.

“You never know what’s going to happen. Hopefully this never happens again for anybody but it did and it could again. So don’t take it for granted. Enjoy it while it’s here,” Ferhat said.