BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) - It’s the heart of spring in the middle of a high school baseball field, yet the mowers are parked and the grass is growing in places that would normally drive coaches crazy.
“I held out hope that we would be together again, taking the field to compete together,” said Airline High School head baseball coach Toby Todd from a group text he sent his players a little over a week ago.
“It’s fitting I’m sitting at our field writing this,” his message continued.
Todd says earlier this month, moments after he took a break from mowing the grass on the Vikings’ baseball field, an email from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association hit his inbox declaring the 2020 spring season over due to the pandemic.
“I had chose to be optimistic, realistic with a positive twist."
Its how he says he personally managed each day since the day prep sports across Louisiana were put on hold on March 14.
But, when the email from LHSAA came in after a month of waiting, he said he wanted to tell his players their season was over before social media beat him to it.
Todd admits, his message to his 14 senior players and underclassmen was an emotional one to write.
“I don’t remember if there was any pollen that day or not, but my nose ran once or twice.”
“I’ve realized it’s you guys that made me love coaching, being proud of you after a win and hurting after a loss,” his message continued.
“It sucks not being able to come here anymore. It’s like a breakup,” said senior center fielder Cole Broadway.
A breakup, with no chance of ever getting back together. And its why Coach Todd wanted his players to know how he felt about them.
“I’m proud of the men you’ve become and will be,” his text messaged continued.
“We say sports will make you tougher, and I truly believe it. I have no doubt you will survive and overcome this."
“He taught me a lot about the game and about life,” senior first baseman Will Tynes said about Todd, who coached him for the last four years.
Tynes will play baseball at Southern Mississippi next season.
“There’s no better feeling than walking onto the field,” said shortstop and pitcher Bryson Connell.
And it’s why Todd feels baseball, as cliche as it sounds, plays a big role in helping turn young boys into men.
“You can’t beat a guy who won’t quit, or won’t give up,” explained Todd.
“As a unit, a team, it goes a long way. I think it carries them a long way in life," continued Todd who has coached baseball on the high school level for over 30 years.
“Everything you have to worry about outside of baseball goes away,” Connell explains about what it feels like, for him, each time he steps onto a baseball field.
And there was likely no better feeling for Connell than the last time he stepped to the plate as a high school senior.
“I knew this was it, and it was going to be my last at-bat, probably,” said Connell, talking about his last at bat of his high school career on March 14 against Ruston.
With the game tied at 1 and two outs in the bottom of the final inning, Connell drove the baseball to deep center field.
“As soon as I hit it, I was like, this has got a chance,” remembered Connell.
The ball flew over the center fielder’s extended glove, allowing a runner to score the winning run.
“I’m definitely glad it ended that way. It could have ended a whole lot worse.”
Todd concluded his text message with a specific message to the underclassmen.
“Never take this game for granted. Work every chance you get to always be your best. Do it for yourselves, for each other, and for these seniors who would trade places with you for one more chance to play for the Airline Vikings.”