Seniors showed doubters are indeed the best motivators
Josh Fenske launched a high fly ball to center field Saturday night, and he knew almost immediately that his high school sports career was over.
He put his hands to is face as he stopped just short of first base and the pain was agonizing.
Josh is my son, yet, the reporter in me lifted my camera and shot a few pictures. It’s my job, after all, to capture the emotions — both the good and the bad — when I’m covering a ballgame.
And as I put the camera down, I could feel the tear on my face.
A chapter had ended, and although I’ve tried valiantly not to live my life vicariously through my sons’ athletics, the bottom line is I wasn’t quite ready for this chapter to end, but “Denver 7, New Hampton 2” had just done that.
This, though, isn’t a sappy story about my son; instead, I want this to be a celebration — albeit sappy — of a senior class that has accomplished so much on the baseball diamond, and they did so with very humble beginnings.
Five years ago, these boys were coming out of seventh grade, and they didn’t have enough guys to make up a baseball team. The fact was, they weren’t even close.
So three boys — Noah Fye, Aden Zwanziger and Josh — made almost daily trips to Cresco to play with the Crestwood Cadets.
In so many ways, it was a magical summer. Our team did very well, going something like 28-6, and these boys from Cresco and New Hampton showed that two rival schools can do more than get along. The boys got along famously, and they learned a lot about life and baseball.
What made that summer mesh, if you will, I’ve always believed was the fact that Alec Zwanziger, then a sophomore-to-be at Coe College, pretty much served as the coach of that team. Oh, guys like Jerry Steffen, Phil Zwanziger and I were technically also coaches, but Alec was the guy the kids looked up to the most and definitely listened to the most.
Over the years, our little band grew a bit.
Logan Havlik came out for baseball his sophomore year, and Braydon Fisher, who played baseball for three years at Nashua-Plainfield but sat out the sport his first year in New Hampton, picked up his glove and bat this summer.
They may not have been the most talented class to ever grace the Mikkelson Park diamond but they may have been the most overachieving one.
I’m not saying they didn’t have talent, don’t get me wrong.
Josh saw his first varsity action as a freshman when he served as a pinch runner for the Chickasaws and started in the outfield as a sophomore.
Noah and Aden both played some as sophomores and became full-time starters as juniors. Braydon stepped into the lineup this year. And Logan, while he never played a ton, was just one of those kids every baseball team needs — that guy who keeps everyone loose and accepts his role with class.
I’m biased as hell, but I’m so proud of these kids.
In a so-called down year, they helped New Hampton win a fourth straight Northeast Iowa Conference championship and put together a 27-6 record.
I’ll admit, I was one of the non-believers. By no means did I think the Chickasaws were going to fall off the face of the Earth this summer, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t see 27 wins out of this group.
But they did.
Still, Saturday night was in so many ways agonizing.
The ultimate goal for this year’s team — as it has been for so many Chickasaw squads in the past — was to play a state tournament game in Principal Park.
They didn’t make it, and I hope like hell one year — next year would be nice — New Hampton finally reaches high school baseball’s “promised land.”
Yet, this group of kids taught us all a lesson: “Doubters are motivators in disguise.”
My hope for the Chickasaws returning is that they continue the “good fight” and break through next year. And my hope for these five seniors — Aden, Braydon, Josh, Logan and Noah — is that you realize just how much you accomplished.