Their numbers were small, but their impact was large.
Ed Freije said that’s part of the story of 2020 Cathedral High School baseball’s senior class, and another part was this: The group will be remembered after a difficult time passes.
“It’s obviously a very challenging time for the players, especially for the seniors,” Freije said.
Irish baseball, like all Indiana high school spring sports, had its 2020 season canceled by regulations addressing Covid-19. All high school Indiana spring sports were canceled in early April, though Freije said the bond within the team remained.
“We’ve been able to share in some virtual gatherings and meetings – and just kind of check in in a number of ways – but it’s definitely not the same as being together,” Freije said.
Freije, now in his fourth season as the Irish’s baseball coach, said as of late April the program still hoped to gather personally sometime in May, June or July to “be together as a program, to recognize our seniors in person.”
In the meantime, efforts have been made to recognize a special senior class. Hill signs were delivered to senior players’ front yards and seniors were spotlighted on Twitter.
“We hope to be able to gather, and maybe play an intrasquad [game] – maybe have a Senior Night at some point,” Freije said. “If that isn’t likely, we’ll go to perhaps a Plan B.”
The class that lost its senior season entered the program in 2016-2017, Freije’s first season as head coach. Freije said “for sure” that made the group special for him.
“We came in together, this group and our coaching staff,” Freije said. “This our first four-year group.”
Whereas a large group of seniors graduated in 2019, and whereas the Irish’s junior class also is large, this year’s seniors sustained a level of attrition over the years.
“It was small coming in and gradually got smaller,” Freije said. “They’ve had a great four years with the program. Each group’s unique in its own way, and this group is no different than a lot of others in that it has put in a lot of hard work and commitment.
“It’s a small group, and it’s tremendous in its own right.”
The Irish’s four-player ’20 senior class:
*Kyle Cortner, a three-year letter winner, a left-handed pitcher and first baseman who Freije said pitched significant innings as a junior while hitting in the middle of the order. “He was going to be one of our top arms,” Freije said. “He was a guy we were counting on.”
*Cam Clark, a two-year letter winner who Freije said was going to pitch extensively and factor in as an infielder as a senior after playing left field as a junior. “He was little bit of a moving piece – wherever he helped us the most and could fit in the lineup he was willing to do and able to do,” Freije said. Clark will play at Spalding University in Louisville, Ky.
*Sam Greene, a two-year letter winner who was going to compete in the outfield as a senior. “He hads a strong work ethic and was a leader for us in a number of ways,” Freije said. “He’s a guy who’s going to step up and do what’s needed to be done.” Greene will attend Ole Miss.
*Daylen Hall, a two year letter winner, and a four-year two sport athlete in football and baseball. “He’s a tremendous athlete and was going to compete in the outfield and have a good opportunity for us” Freije said.
The Irish have long been one of the state’s most consistent programs, annually developing players to effectively replace departed seniors. Freije said this year’s team would have been in that tradition.
“We’ve had a balance over the years of graduating a significant part of our lineup and on the mound, but still able to return guys that contribute in a number of ways” Freije said. “We were excited about what we had, but also looking forward to seeing how some things played out.
“Some guys with varsity experience were going to perhaps move around a little bit or play some different roles. It was going to be exciting to see how that played out.”
Freije said 2020 would have been a season of development – and as such, Freije said it had a chance to be an intriguing season. That it won’t happen was disappointing, though it was a disappointment the program kept in perspective.
“One of the hardest things as a coach is knowing that when the season ends – whether it’s with a win or a loss – the group won’t be together again as it is to compete and go to work,” Freije said. “With this unique circumstance, it’s not only that but they didn’t even get a chance to compete together. That’s hard on coaches, it’s hard on players, it’s hard on families.
“But everybody’s in a similar boat and we’ll get through it together.”