‘I feel bad’: Sailors say goodbye to their final baseball season
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Ahead of the 2020 season, the Steamboat Springs High School baseball team was confident. Sure, Steamboat has had rocky records in the past, but the Sailors were optimistic this spring would be the year they could compete.
They’ll never find out where they stand compared to others, but that isn’t the reason the group of seniors are upset about missing this year. Records never mattered for the Sailors. It’s just playing the game they love, with the people that matter most.
“It’s not the best baseball town,” senior Maxim Fullerton said of Steamboat. “But it’s one of the best towns in the world, so that makes up for that.”
Senior Tanner Ripley said of all years for baseball to be canceled, this would be the last one he’d have chosen. With every player returning from last year, the squad had talent and experience.
“Of all years, this was probably our year to make a playoff run and possibly win a few games in the playoffs,” Ripley said. “It’s for sure, pretty disappointing, but this was a pretty close group. We’ve grown up playing together a ton. … It was quite the group.”
Fullerton, who only started playing competitive baseball a couple of years ago, each season is special because he’s had so few. While some teammates have had more than 10 years of memories, Fullerton has just a few and was looking forward to one final season.
Ripley has years of Steamboat baseball memories to look back on. He said the memories made while renting a house in Denver with the team will always top the list, as will the frequent bus rides.
- Jack Cofer
- George Cook
- Maxim Fullerton
- Ethen Johnson
- Tanner Ripley
He also remembers clearly a game from his freshman year. That spring, a senior, who was a first-time baseball player, made huge improvements throughout the season. One game, the senior robbed a home run at the wall.
“He couldn’t believe it. We’re all in disbelief, but then the other team started realizing that’s only one out or two outs or whatever, and he realized he had to throw it about five to 10 seconds later,” Ripley said. “It’s a pretty funny memory. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what just happened?’”
Once Fullerton heard there was no season this spring, he started preparing for next year, when he’ll play at Northeast Nebraska Community College. He used his last paycheck for the foreseeable future to buy some equipment and has been working on his skills ever since.
With few classes and no spring sports, Ripley suddenly had tons of free time. To fill it, he has been playing wiffleball with his brothers and watching the Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance,” with his family. He’s also been spending a couple of hours a day with his 4-H pigs, but of course, they’re not as good company as his teammates.
The team did get one scrimmage together on March 7, in which senior Ethen Johnson hit a three-run home run.
Johnson will be heading to Western Nebraska Community College to play baseball next year, so he still has baseball to look forward to. Both he and Fullerton are looking to the future but know that not everyone on their team has that opportunity.
“I’m not too disappointed because I know it’s not the last time. I’ll be playing the sport,” Fullerton said. “I feel bad for the seniors, (for which) this is the last opportunity to play at a competitive or school level. That’s who I really feel for.”
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