COLUMN: Lights in the darkness

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

The lights weren’t supposed to go off in the middle of March.

When players and coaches were just getting settled into a new season of high school baseball, the bright stadium lights illuminating their prized diamond weren’t supposed to be unceremoniously shut off, not before they could see where the countless hours of practice and training and preparation could take them.

And certainly not before this year’s seniors could close out their high school careers on their terms—and on the field.

But a relentless virus named COVID-19 demanded a sudden change of plans for everyone. On March 26, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement that all schools would remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year came with confirmation from State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey that the 2020 spring sports season was canceled, too.

It was an abrupt ending no athlete would hope for, and for the seniors, it was an especially tough reality to accept. They would not have another chance to put on their uniforms, take the field together and play a game before their home crowd beneath the lights.

Social distancing rules put in place to prevent the spread of the virus also meant the traditional events held to honor senior players would have to be revised.

The Calera community rose to the challenge, organizing a special drive-by event for the Calera High School baseball seniors on the evening of April 8, which would have been their Senior Night.

The CHS seniors stood in front of the stadium, with six feet of space between each other, and watched as carloads of people drove through the parking lot, honking and shouting their praises as they passed.

“Not how our senior night was supposed to be,” read a post on the Calera High School Baseball Facebook page, “But at exactly 8:20 or 20:20 the lights came on one last time for these seniors. A Senior Night that will always be remembered!”

The disappointment of an unfinished season is still there, as is the case for hundreds of other student-athletes in Shelby County, and beyond.

But they can know they’re still worthy of being celebrated—and to celebrate themselves—even in the uncertain days of COVID-19.

Kudos to the Calera families who got creative and put together a memorable celebration for their seniors, and to others in our county who are finding ways to honor milestones and spread positivity in the process.

This pandemic might temporarily take away our normal activities and social freedoms, but it can’t diminish the community spirit that makes Shelby County the greatest place to live.