Seth Dankenbring never imagined that his final senior appearance at the Grain Valley High School baseball field would come outside of it without his full uniform on.
Since he was 5 years old, he and his friends – nine seniors – dreamed of winning a state baseball championship in their final high school season, and this year’s Eagles team was loaded.
From the gritty second baseman to a likely Major League Baseball draft pick, pitcher Jacob Misiorowski, to speedy all-state outfielder Mason Rogers, this Eagles squad seemed destined for greatness.
“This was the team everyone has been talking about for a long, long time,” Eagles coach Brian Driskell said. “And now, we’ll never know what might have happened because of the COVID-19 coronavirus quarantine.”
Spring prep sports seasons were canceled throughout the country, leaving players, especially seniors, wondering what might have been.
“We dreamed about this season for 12 years, and now it’s gone,” said Dankenbring, who earned three varsity letters in football, two in basketball and two in baseball. “It really hurts, but there’s nothing we can do about it. I enjoy writing, and I wanted to put my thoughts into a letter to all student-athletes – but especially to seniors.”
The letter reads:
Dear Class of 2020,
Take a trip with me. The year is 2007 – the start of the most vital 12 years of our lives. We learned to spell, we learned how to act around other people, we learned to share, we even learned how to love, but most of all we made friends. Some would last a year and some would last a lifetime, but together, we made it through. We made it through Map testing, we made it through middle school, and now we’re here.
We all remember our first day of freshman year. It's our last ride, the “home stretch,” who knew how fast this time would go? Just four more years and we would be done and ready for the next step in our lives. We were all looking forward to so much in high school – homecomings, proms, memories, new friendships and bonds that could never be broken. Getting ready for college and getting into harder classes. Stressing about ACT scores and being role models for the little kids watching.
I always loved watching the other seniors graduate, spending their last days as an Eagle and saying their goodbyes, but most of all I was looking forward to my last day, my graduation. Getting to walk across that stage and having my whole family watching, and listening to my teachers and coaches telling me how proud they are and saying, “I knew you could do it,” and personally making a huge step in life and getting ready for the real world. Handing down the torch and lighting a new path for ourselves and seeing where it would take us.
Sadly, that might not be a reality anymore. Because of COVID-19, a lot of these final memories are being stripped from us. We lost our last prom, we lost our spring sports and we lost some of our last moments with the people we grew up with. However, we are not alone. We are here for one another; we are strong, and we are the life of the party. We will make it past this. We have worked too hard. Keep your heads up and we will get through this. I love all of you and want to thank you for all of the memories. Graduation will happen. Stay strong Class of 2020…
Now Dankenbring can only look forward to the next time he and his friends are together.
“Some day, we’re all going to get together – there will be hugs and high-fives and we’re going to be talking about surviving the quarantine, and the things we missed out on,” Dankenbring said. “But we will always have each other, and that’s what is the most important thing to me.”