Grain Valley junior Cole Keller considers himself one of the lucky ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike his nine senior baseball teammates, Keller has another year with the Eagles, where he is the starting quarterback in football, power forward in basketball and third baseman in baseball.
He’s also coming off a nasty knee injury that robbed him of the last half of the football season and most of the basketball campaign, although he did return before the playoffs and helped his team make a successful run into the postseason.
Now, he’s looking for any wide open space to gather with a few receivers/friends on the football team, or an open court where he can practice his hardwood skills.
“The seniors on our baseball team, or really, any seniors who are missing out on their final year of playing, just hurts my soul,” Keller said after spending the afternoon working with his dad John at the family business, Keller Custom Landscaping.
“I’ve had some people ask me if I know what they’re going through because I missed the end of football and most of the basketball season, and while that was difficult, it doesn’t even compare to missing your senior season.”
The Eagles baseball team was expected to have a big season with nine seniors returning, including a pair of all-state selections from last year, pitcher Jacob Misiorowski and outfielder Mason Rogers.
“I’m not a senior, but all I’ve been thinking about is what we might have accomplished with nine seniors on our baseball team, and I mean nine really good seniors,” Keller said. “Jacob has been an Oklahoma State commitment since he was a sophomore and eight of those nine guys are going to college where they are playing baseball.
“Seeing what happened to them makes me appreciate the fact that I have another year at Grain Valley, and I am so grateful for that.”
Keller also is happy that he can rest his injured knee during the hiatus.
“Plus, in a weird way, I think this break is really helping my knee heal 100 percent. I can go work out, and I feel like it's 110 percent – stronger than it’s ever been,” he said. “I don’t even think about it when I’m working out. Before there was this gray area where I felt good, but I kept thinking, ‘What if?’ and I don’t even think about that now.”
Like most of his classmates and teammates, Keller is learning to live with this “new normal,” which he says is anything but normal.
“If this is the new normal, I hope it’s gone soon,” Keller said. “I’m an active guy. I don’t like sitting around the house. I want to be out working out, be with my friends. I want to go back to see everyone – but I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.
“So I’m going to make the most of it, stay in touch with my teachers, coaches and friends through social media and go out and throw around a football whenever I have the chance.
“You know, be as normal as possible.”