VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Bayside High School baseball coach Pat Stafford hangs a daily practice plan in the dugout Monday prior to his team's first time together, on the field, in 52 weeks. It was a year ago when COVID-19 ended the Marlins' 2020 season before the team even played a game.
As for the printed rundown? It will be utilized, but not followed.
"I'm sure everybody else is pumped right now," Bayside senior pitcher/outfielder Jacob Raguini said. "Just to be feeling this – we're back on the field now. I'm loving it."
As part of the Virginia High School League's return to participation, winter and fall sports have been back in play. But spring sports, like baseball, were stuck on the sideline - until Monday. March 8th was the first day spring sports programs (baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and outdoor track and field) in Virginia Beach City Public Schools were allowed to gather for preseason conditioning. The first day of official practice is April 12th.
"Seeing other people get ready for their seasons, again – it was a little bit of a bummer," admitted Bayside senior catcher Alex Brown. "I was excited for everybody, though. We're representing all Bayside, not just baseball. It helped us get fired up for our season."
The first game of every year is exciting - especially this year, especially at Bayside High. When the Marlins open their 2021 campaign next month, it will be the first time Coach Stafford will be able to lead his team in a regular season contest - despite being hired back in August of 2019.
"I grew up in this setting ever since I was a young guy," Stafford explained. "When we didn't have last season, it was almost like part of me was missing."
But now it's found - and so is a new appreciation for the game of baseball.
If you look closely at the practice plan posted in the dugout Monday, you'll notice the date is wrong. It says March 12, 2020. That's because it's a laminated copy of the practice plan from the last day this team was together.
"[It's up there] so everybody can see that we're always one little step away from having everything taken away from us," Stafford said. "This year, for us – it's about gratitude."
"Play every day like it's your last day," Brown added. "Play hard. If it is your last day, at least you can reflect back and realize I gave it my best that day."
Which is why, at Bayside High School, on this first day - and every day - there will be a reminder of that last day from last year.