By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
PIQUA — Piqua Post 184 American Legion baseball coach Justin Jennings has spent his springs and summers on a baseball diamond for as long as he can remember.
But, what has taken place this spring is not so much about him, but what his players are going through as there is still uncertainty what kind of season — if any — Post 184 will have this summer.
“The reason I do this is for the kids,” Jennings said. “That is what it is about. I want them to experience life and go on to do great things.”
But, this is an experience he wishes they could have avoided.
“I tell kids all the time, when it is over, it is over,” Jennings said. “I have former players come up to me two or three years later and tell me, ‘Coach, I understand what you meant now.’ These kids didn’t just have it end, they had the season ripped out from under them. Some of them may have played their last game and they didn’t even know it.”
This summer was going to be important for a number of Jennings’ players, including Piqua’s Iverson Ventura and Lehman Catholic’s Alex Keller to name two.
“This was going to be a big summer for Iverson (Ventura),” Jennings said. “He didn’t get to play this spring, and he has aspirations to play college baseball. And I think he deserves the opportunity.
“Alex Keller was another one who was looking forward to a big summer. We have a lot of kids who were going to have big summers.”
At this point, Jennings is just hoping to get his team some games.
“We had a schedule in place,” Jennings said. “I think our first tournament (at Wittenberg) was the only thing that had really been cancelled. We are just not sure what is going to happen right now.”
Ohio’s stay-at-home order — under a different name — has been kept in place until May 29, and the OHSAA no-contact rule has been extended.
“It is just going to depend on the rules and what we are allowed to do and when we are allowed to do it,” Jennings said.
As for Jennings himself — as unusual as it is for him to be away from the diamond — whether it is watching prospective players in the spring or coaching in the summer, he has been spending less time on the diamond.
“When I went down there (to Hardman Field), it wasn’t just for baseball,” Jennings said. “I don’t go down there as much now, obviously. It is what it is. It is just an unfortunate situation.”
Jennings knows baseball will return at some point and knows this year’s players have an appreciation for the game more now.
“I would hope so,” Jennings said. “Look, there are going to be more teams and more baseball players in the future.”
He just hopes there will be some games this summer.
“I am hoping we will be able to at least get on the diamond a little bit,” Jennings said. “Hopefully, we can give these kids a chance to play some games — and give them something to remember from this season other than COVID-19.”
Because for Jennings, that is what it is all about — giving his players the best experience possible and preparing them for a successful future.
Contact Rob Kiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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