Editor’s note: Though the high school spring sports season has been canceled, The Chronicle-Telegram is still running previews the same as we would have had there been a season so that the athletes get some well-deserved recognition.
The Open Door baseball team had 2020 vision.
The Division IV Patriots spent years building toward this spring with the expectation of having one of the best seasons in school history.
Open Door had all nine starters returning, a beefed-up schedule, new uniforms ready to go. This was going to be the Patriots’ year. Then came the coronavirus pandemic.
Like schools across Ohio, Open Door found out April 20 that its baseball season would be canceled when the Ohio High School Athletic Association pulled the plug on the spring sports season following Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to cancel in-person classes for the remainder of the academic year.
“It’s been beyond rough,” Open Door coach Matt Loescher said. “This was going to be the year. At Open Door we’ve had some great success in basketball and, honestly, the baseball team has always been a little jealous. We thought this was going to be our year.
“We had all of our starters coming back, seven of those nine kids were All-Lorain County in either 2018 or 2019. It would have been our year to define who we are as a program.”
Seniors Alex Lloyd and Josh Zaborowski, friends and teammates since eighth grade, and .400 hitters each of the last two seasons, were expected to provide much of the Patriots’ offensive firepower.
After battling through a 6-10 season as freshmen, the duo worked to improve their games, recruit their fellow students to bolster the ranks of the program and help put all of the pieces in place for what they hoped would be a memorable senior year.
“It’s been a struggle,” Zaborowski said. “We really came together as a team in the offseason. We had the toughest schedule we’ve ever had and we were ready to go. It’s been pretty rough on myself and all the guys that it was canceled.”
Zaborowski battled through a shoulder injury last year but still batted .406 with 13 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
“When they first closed schools I felt like we’d be back in a couple of weeks and we’d get the season started,” Zaborowski said. “After they pushed the start dates for schools in early April back again I realized there was a good chance we were not going to play. When the final announcement came it was really hard to think about the fact I wouldn’t be able to step out on the field one more time with the guys I’ve become so close with.”
Loescher heaped praise on Lloyd, who batted .508 as a sophomore and .449 last year, for what he can do on the field saying, “That boy can hit a baseball like nobody’s business.”
However, even more impressive than Lloyd’s work with a bat in his hand is the maturity and poise with which he’s handled having his senior season ripped away from him and knowing that he and the nine other seniors on the Patriots roster will never get a chance to wear an Open Door uniform again.
“It’s been tough to see the unfortunate events that have happened,” Lloyd said. “I feel bad, not just for our team, but for everyone who wanted to step out on the field this year and share their love of baseball with everyone. Getting your senior year canceled is very heartbreaking.
“Of course we’re disappointed but it’s out of our control and the people in control did the best they could. They had to look at all angles of the situation. They had to consider the safety of everyone involved, not just the players and coaches but also the umpires, the bus drivers, the fans who would come out and support us. We took their decisions with heavy hearts but we understood it’s for everybody’s health.”
The Patriots have a strong junior class with eight juniors led by Bailey Loescher, who hit .424 as a freshman, and James Green, who struck out 42 in 39 innings last season so the future is still bright for the program but coach Loescher knows this year’s team was special.
“We’ve had good teams in the past,” Loescher said. “But this was the best team I’ve ever been around in all my years of coaching. We’re going to be good next year and into the future but I’ll probably never have another team with the depth this team had.”
Zaborowski, who will play college basketball at Waynesburg (Pa.) University, hopes the spring of 2020 will teach younger players to seize the moment, knowing nothing, not even their senior year, is a given.
“I would tell the younger guys don’t wait to put in the work, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Zaborowski said. “Be ready to take your opportunity anytime it’s presented, even as a freshman or a sophomore.”
Despite a spring in which fields are empty and hearts are heavy, Lloyd, who hopes to continue his baseball career at the college level next year, hasnt lost his passion for the game.
“You always start out as a fan of the game,” Lloyd said. “We should never forget we all started out as fans of this game we call baseball. This hurts so badly because we all love the game of baseball.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.