'Super cool' event gives central Ohio baseball, softball players final at-bat

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Westerville South's Keyton Kowalski (left) slaps hands with teammate Luke Spiller as he leaves the batter's box at Huntington Park on June 30. The Clippers provided a chance for area baseball and softball players from the class of 2020 to have a few more at-bats with their high school teammates after their final seasons were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Columbus Clippers have helped area baseball and softball players make some lasting memories after their season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

With sponsorship from Scotts and support from the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the Clippers have been playing host to "One More Swing for the Fences" at Huntington Park, an event that allows 2020 graduates to have a final batting practice session while wearing their school's apparel.

The event, which has no fees for participants, began June 25 and will conclude July 30.

Seniors are featured on the stadium's video board and are recognized before taking batting practice with their coaches serving as pitchers.

For Westerville South's Luke Spiller, the event helped provide some consolation for spring sports being canceled. Spiller competed at the freshman level and on the junior varsity in his sophomore and junior years in anticipation of playing varsity this spring, an opportunity that never materialized.

"I thought this was super cool," he said. "It was nice that the Clippers held something like this. It was nice to get some more swings in at a big field like this. It's a bigger stadium than I played in before and it was nice to do."

Teammate Keyton Kowalski hit a home run to right field off coach Tim Bates.

"The seniors all around the state -- no matter what sport -- it was their chance," Bates said. "It was going to be their shining year and then it got taken away. Hopefully by coming down here to Huntington Park, it gives them something to remember, something to tell their grandkids."

The event allowed Hilliard Davidson's Natalie Myers to get in some swings while preparing to play softball at Wilmington College.

"This was pretty cool," said Myers, who was joined by teammates Addison DeJesus and Maggie Rupert. "I really wanted to do it. It was a nice experience because when (the season) ended I was bummed because we never got to play in these uniforms again. We had a final at-bat."

Davidson coach Katie Speakman said it was a nice tribute for her recent graduates.

"This was great," she said. "Any opportunity we have to recognize these seniors is outstanding. I really thank the Clippers and Scotts for this opportunity. The fact that they offered this was awesome. These seniors have gotten a lot of unique opportunities and even though they lost their season, the cool opportunities they've had to come out of it have been amazing. We really appreciate it."

Olentangy Orange baseball coach Tom Marker said it was a fitting recognition for the six players his program lost to graduation.

"We've been staying in contact with our guys since the season was over, but it's nice when we can get them back together," he said. "We had great senior parents and great seniors and to have them out doing something together again was pretty cool."

As the only senior on the Worthington Christian baseball team, Jack Lockhart was able to bask in the spotlight.

"This was excellent," he said. "I didn't have a senior season, so I was a little bummed about that. I'm not playing in college, but it was a great honor to get out here. It's great what the Clippers are doing."

Other programs participating included Central Crossing baseball and softball, DeSales baseball and softball, Dublin Coffman baseball, Dublin Scioto baseball and softball, Grandview baseball and softball, Grove City baseball and softball, Grove City Christian baseball, Groveport baseball, Hilliard Bradley baseball, Hilliard Darby baseball and softball, Davidson baseball, Olentangy Berlin baseball, Ready baseball and softball, Upper Arlington baseball and softball, Thomas Worthington baseball, Westerville Central softball, South softball, Westland baseball, Whetstone baseball, Worthington Kilbourne baseball and Columbus City Schools programs.

"This was a collective effort by the staff," said organizer Emily Poynter, an assistant director of marketing for the Clippers. "We were just trying to figure out something we could do for these high school kids because the senior season is really special. We wanted to figure out a way to honor them and let them come out and have that final at-bat."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank