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After 661 days of offseason, high school baseball is back – with sunshine and everything

BAY CITY, MI – Gabe Tullar was willing to push himself through an entire season of baseball.

He realized that he could endure any pain to play the game he loves.

But the Bay City Central slugger never suspected that his broken foot would be healed until he had the chance to take the field.

Despite having a stress break just before the 2020 season, Tullar – like his teammates and ball players all over Michigan – was tough to get between the lines when the entire season was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So you should think they all had a serious baseball itch to scrape when they finally put bats on the ball Tuesday for the opening day of the long-awaited 2021 campaign – complete with sunshine and 75 degree temperatures.

“I could not sleep last night, just think about it,” Tullar said between games at MacGregor Field. “I came here an hour and a half early just because I could not wait.

“When we finally got our uniforms, it came in. There is no more waiting. It’s time to go. “

Central hosted Hemlock in a non-conference double header on Tuesday, dropping the opening 12-7 before sunset stopping Game 2 after three innings. But the outcome had little to do with the main story on this day.

After a terrible 661-day offseason, high school baseball is back.

Bay City Central baseball

Bay City Central’s Joey Giffel is waiting in the circle on deck as teammate Logan Ovalle goes in to strike during the season opener in 2021.

“It’s amazing to just get back out there with the team and the coaches, and to see everyone come out to see the game,” said Tullar. “I really have no words to describe it.”

Baseball drills only began to roll on the infamous day of March 12, 2020, when sports – among many activities across the state – were stopped by the coronavirus threat. Before a single match was played, the entire spring sports campaign was wiped off the calendar.

It was a crushing blow for players addicted to baseball. For some, it meant they would never again go into a battery box, lay out a double, or chase down a fly ball.

“Seeing all my friends who were older lose their last year, it was heartbreaking,” Tullar said. “It hurt so much to see.”

So a junior, Tullar, was so hyped for the 2020 season that he was willing to play through the wound of a broken foot. Pain, he said, seemed like a minor sacrifice for the opportunity to play ball.

“I was going to bet on it,” he said. “I love the game. I want to be out there. I had Coach talk about it and everything. ”

Bay City Central baseball

Travis Koziatek addresses his team during his first match as head coach of Bay City Central.

Instead, Tullar would have plenty of time to heal, albeit while suffering from wounds for a year without baseball. When the game finally resumed on Tuesday, Central and Hemlock both showed the effect of almost two full years away from the game, but few seemed to care.

“You can see that there is a bit of rust,” said Travis Koziatek after the debut match as Central’s head coach. “We have many second-year students, and this was their first high school game of any kind. Many of our boys had never played high school, and none of them had played a college game. So there are a lot of questions.

“It’s going to be a learning year. We just want them to compete and have fun, and we learn as we go. ”

In a sign of the new age, Central played its first game after holding only one full practice. Many of the wolves were quarantined in the last two weeks for COVID-19 contact tracking measures and were unable to train as a team.

But after a year without baseball, the players were more than willing to dive in and get back on the diamond. And they do it with a new perspective, thanks to a season with the toughest banks.

“You can not take anything for granted,” Tullar said. “We may be closed next week, you never know. You have to come to every game and give it everything you have. We’ll make sure we have fun every game. ”

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