Over the past 150 years, baseball has evolved into America’s “national pastime”, having been played as far back as the Civil War. Baseball gave us larger than life heroes in Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. It survived two world wars, producing superstar-turned-war-heroes like Bob Feller and Ted Williams, and was a leader in breaking down racial barriers with Jackie Robinson.
The sport has never been devoid of controversy, but baseball has endured its many ups and downs. On the 17th of April, 2020, the IHSAA board announced that all spring sports in the state of Idaho were cancelled for the remainder of the school year. This directive came as a result of the safety parameters set by Idaho Gov. Brad Little. A season lost before it had even begun for athletes at Teton High School.
Teton High School had been holding out hopes of saving a season that held great promise. The team would be led by six seniors and a strong supporting cast, said Coach Blake Fullmer. Fullmer has coached these seniors for their entire high school career. Seasons that included back to back district championships in their freshman and sophomore campaigns, and earning bids to compete at the state tournament in 2017 and 2018.
Character is built on and off the field through overcoming obstacles.
The fact that this team was coming off a season with a 5-8-1 record does not define THS baseball. This team was ready to show their determination and heart, and to bounce back and play with pride this year. Teton had a strong senior pitching unit composed of Seth Christiansen, Carson Reiley and Parker Bleggi, speed in the outfield to track down anything with Dylan Hatch and Dexton Maw, a great catcher behind the plate in Dusty Hess.
Their bats were lively and confident to go along with their experience. The group had become not only teammates, but a family.
“Teton High School baseball to me defines what it means to have a brotherhood. I may not have reached my goals this season, but I had the friends, teammates, and coaches to help me do it. I was ready”, said senior outfielder Dexton Maw.
The words “Play Ball!” will not echo around the diamond this spring. The bleachers remain empty, absent of parents, friends and family. Parents that have sacrificed countless hours in support of their sons’ endeavors suddenly coming to an abrupt end, with little comfort or closure.
Playing baseball was a rite of passage to these young men, as many of the seniors were following in the footsteps of their older brothers. Each school day they were reminded of this as they walked past the trophy case that honors the memory and accomplishments of relatives in this close knit valley.
The sporting world is loaded with stories of lessons on never giving up. The Detroit Tigers pulled out the “Rally Caps”’ in the1945 World Series and came back from a large deficit to defeat the Chicago Cubs.
Coach Fullmer and the THS baseball team did not give up when they were outmatched, on paper, versus South Fremont in the district tournament in 2018.
“They were number one in the state and everybody told us we were going to lose. My older brother Kolby pitched that game and I caught. We were able to beat them 19-2 for back to back district championships,” vividly recalls senior catcher, Dusty Hess. He said it is one of his favorite memories and giving up was not an option.
When asked what he could take away from this lost season, senior 3rd baseman and pitcher, Carson Reiley, added, “Through all the wins and the losses, through the highs and all the lows, baseball has taught me resilience, grit and teamwork, along with how to deal with pressure, with defeat, with success, and has taught me appreciation.”
“I’ve played since I was a little kid and it means everything to me. It’s super tough for me and the other seniors going through this but at the end of the day it’s just a game and we can all get through this,” senior shortstop Seth Christiansen said.
Wins and losses come and go with time. The bonds made at Teton High School are a strong foundation for the next phases in life for these young men.
Outfielder Dylan Hatch remarked, “It has been really important to me, being a really big building block for me, who I am today, meeting all my best friends and learning how to connect with people.”
Boys who gained confidence to take on challenges, boys who stood behind their team and picked each other up when they were down, became boys who learned. The hardest lesson to learn was,“Not to take anything for granted, especially when it comes to baseball. I now know how fast sports and things can be taken away from you,” said second baseman, Parker Bleggi.
As they experience a wide range of emotions — from sadness, to anger, to disappointment over not wearing the jersey or putting on the rally caps together one last time — it is the lessons of sports and the support of their teammates that give them the strength to move forward. They are determined not to let this one event define them.
In the end, they remain as one, together through the highs and lows, forever “Teton Strong.”