The exact year Tommy Pharr is missing.
Still, the veteran baseball coach, winner of several state championships both in Farragut and now the Christian Academy of Knoxville, knows that it has been decades since his previous spring ended without a baseball season.
Well, before the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed everything in 2020.
“It must have been over 30 years; I think I have been training in any shape, form or fashion for 35 or 36 years now, ”said Pharr. “It was definitely a strange year.
“You just hate it for those guys. Luckily we had a small senior class, but just everything that was missed, the chance to play and be with and with each other throughout the season. ”
It was just a little less painful last year at Goodpasture Christian School, where Jim Carter’s squad squeezed in seven games before the community screamed to a standstill.
“Our school made the decision to let our baseball and softball programs take the spring break last year in the second week of the season,” Carter said. “It was a lot of nervousness. I was nervous. Softball coaches were nervous. We just did not know what was about to happen.
“I remember sharing the last game with the staff down here, it will probably be the last game of the year. We had a couple of seniors out for the year with injuries. We put them on the qualifying list and dressed them that day. Let them play a game of defense or get a punch. You could see things happening before your eyes (when society began to close across the country) the second week. ”
This week, almost exactly 14 months since its closure, baseball seasons throughout Tennessee have matriculated to the point where only the absolute best are left: Qualifications for the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Spring Fling.
Still, it’s a season of support far deeper than just wins and losses.
“I think there’s definitely a sense of (saying) ‘Hey, let’s get the most out of this thing,'” Pharr said. “We talked about it before we played (Section Series) and a sense of fairness, man, I is grateful we’re still playing. We missed this last year because there was no way to do it. So have fun and enjoy it. There’s pressure but not really. We get to play. The guys embraced that feeling and said ‘Hi, we’m lucky to be able to play.’ “
Wearing the hats of athletics director and baseball coach, Carter looks back to the norm only to expect that life will return to its previous standard.
“When I look back on the whole school year,” said Carter, “I mean when the school year started, it was very obvious that everyone just had to be out there competing in the sporting event it was.
“As time went on, I began to see that gratitude changed a little to frustration at different times due to limitations and unfortunate circumstances that were not within any control. What I have noticed in the spring, it has been the season that has been more normal than anyone else, and then this is just my opinion, I have not seen it as a gratitude, but just another spring. It looks like 2019, 2018, 2017. ”
Both coaches, and others around Tennessee in all sports, still reveal a hole from a year ago. Not for what they missed, but for the elderly who never got a final ball or a senior day on a diamond, tennis court, court or anything else.
“It’s a family and we only had three seniors. Two of them were here this (late May) morning at our facility, they came in to strike,” Pharr said. “We just talked about them not being allowed to play. Fortunately, they were part of two state championships. All three were just boys with baseball. They had no other sports. I hated it for them, just very sad. Heck, they were not allowed to do prom, or anything really. ”
La Carter added, “It struck me that it was not just about the seniors for me. My heart broke as everyone did, but in our program or someone else, each player lost 25% of his career. They lost one of their four years. Maybe it was their first year with a university program, and they lost it. Maybe they only got two years of college, junior and senior years, and they lost it. You lost the opportunity to train every child, and that’s really what it’s about. ”
Through it all is an undeniable lesson of determination and courage.
“I think what goes through my mind is just a great understanding and just the will the schools have had, and TSSAA has had to create an experience for athletes and for students this year,” Carter said. “My wife and I have a son who just graduated from Goodpasture as a Salutatorian. In his speeches, that was a big part of it. Challenges that existed throughout the year, but our school always pushed through that adversity so that our students could have a great experience on campus.
“I think this statement is true in all school systems, private or public, and across the TSSAA. I am certainly as a trainer very grateful to TSSAA and Bernard Childress and his management for just continuing to hone through the challenges and get to the end of every sport. “