Over the course of the last few weeks, several baseball and softball stars have been highlighted after having their final year with their respective high school programs short-changed.
Stars with unceremonious endings seems like the cruelest ending possible, but what about the players who waited patiently for their time to step into starter roles?
West Ouachita had a rare situation where all four of its seniors were “program guys.” Take Peyton Hattaway for instance.
When Hattaway started with West Ouachita he was a freshman that played on the freshman team. He had plenty of responsibilities, though.
“I kept the scoreboard while I was catching my freshman year,” Hattaway said.
He didn’t dress for varsity but caught bullpen for games during the 2017 season.
“You hate it for all seniors, but these were program guys,” West Ouachita head coach Mitch Thomas said. “Everything you asked them to do, they did. Here comes their senior year and after all of that, here’s their chance to contribute on the field, so you just hate it for them. That’s what breaks my heart about those guys. They did so many things behind the scene growing up. They weren’t the ones getting on TV or in the newspaper. I thought they were all going to have great senior years.”
Hattaway’s role elevated as a sophomore. He started junior varsity and got to dress varsity. He actually had his first varsity hit in 2018 against Jesuit. Then as a junior last season he started with the junior varsity squad again and got more playing time on varsity. He started at catcher every fifth game behind Kyler Rawls.
This set Hattaway up to make a huge jump his senior year. With so many fresh faces taking the field for the first time as starters, Hattaway had an opportunity to not only start as the team’s catcher but also bat in the three-hole.
“He did really well for us,” Thomas said. “The thing was, and it went for all of them, they were four-year guys. So they didn’t have that experience of being on the field much. That can be a problem, but their attitudes were great.”
Hattaway was hitting over .300 through the first 14 games of the season before COVID-19 forced a sudden stop in play.
“It was like a shock at first,” Hattaway said. “You think, ‘Ah, it’ll play out and go away.’ It never did.”
The abrupt ending might’ve taken senior experiences away from Hattaway and his teammates, but it can’t erase the time spent on and around the field in a West Ouachita uniform.
“My favorite memory is being able to make lifelong friendships with these guys,” Hattaway said.