Going into 2020, Banquete high school had seven senior baseball players in a squad led by head coach Rusty Miller ready for district play. Their softball team featured one senior in a young squad.
The Bulldogs baseball team were on a four game winning streak after a Friday the 13 win over Karnes City by a score of 13 - 3 in a game that saw five doubles.
That would be the last game played statewide for teams after the University Interscholastic League (UIL) issued a suspension of all contests, competitions and athletic events due to concerns over the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) global pandemic. The suspension left student athletes and coaches scrambling to figure out how to continue training and maintaining a sense of normality during these uncertain times.
"it’s been a struggle trying to stay busy with the games and practice coming to a stop," Isaak de la Paz said. "The team has been doing a good job at staying at it and trying to stay on the same course we were heading to and making the good playoff run we know we are capable of."
De la Paz is the son of Johnny and Cathy de la Paz and plans to attend Del Mar College (DMC) to get his basics out of the way before pursuing a criminal justice degree at Texas A&M University - Kingsville (TAMUK).
"It’s heartbreaking to know that our season has been cut short and we are not able to compete everyday," Jaden Martinez, son of Esiquel and Amanda Martinez, said. "As long as we have the mind set to keep working in silence and on our own and keep each other on the right track of staying in shape for when we do come back, I think we will be in great shape to make a far run into the playoffs as expected and capable."
"It was a little disappointing considering we had just got hot, at least I believe so," said Alex Ramirez, son of Onesimo and Patricia Ramirez." Everyone still has the same mindset as we’ve had all season and that is to make a deep playoff run and hopefully make an appearance at the state tournament."
Martinez, who plans to attend DMC and later TAMUK as a business major also added that the team maintains constant communications through group chats to keep each other on track.
"In that group chat we’ll organize when and where we can practice, who all can show up and who can’t," Ramirez, the future DMC student, said. "It also helps for us to stay communicating with each other and keeping that same bond we have."
"As a team, we know our coaches aren’t there right now to practice us and keep us game ready because they can’t," de la Paz said. "So the seniors have been trying to hold everyone accountable to get their work in and keep trying to get better every day."
Priscilla De Leon, the only senior on the softball squad, also shares the same frustration as those of her baseball counterparts. The daughter of Rufino and Karen DeLeon, the short season has been trying.
"Since the season has been cut short, it’s not easy being able to practice with the girls," DeLeon said. "We’re not able to hit in the cages or get the defense we need."
"I’m kinda sad I’m not able to enjoy my last year playing with the girls and my sister. I just hope we can get back to the rest of the season to finish," DeLeon, who plans on entering the nursing program at DMC before going to Coastal Bend College to pursue pediatrics, said.
Being able to maintain outside communication with coaches has also been a big boost for the young players. Since the UIL suspension of all practices, coaches have only been allowed remote communications with player through text message and other forms of outside media communications including social media. This communication is vital for the overall growth of their young athletes.
"I appreciate all of my coaches I know that no matter what they will be here for anyone," David Seagroves, son of Felix and Sylvia Rios, said. "During this time, the coaches text us and ask us how we are doing and tell us to stay safe."
"I know after school, if I ever need someone to talk to or need any type of help, I can call any one of them up and they will answer and talk with me," Seagroves, who plans on attending the University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley to pursue majors in kinesiology and meteorology, said.
"Our coaching staff cares about us and our season even though they are trying to keep us safe because of this virus," Martinez said. "They are still making sure we are working by setting up online courses and work outs for us to do at home. It shows that they haven’t given up on us even through this pandemic."
Another thing that keeps these players motivated is the continued support form their small community of Banquete, a town that is centered around the schools and the stadium and ball park.
The town is a huge supporter of Banquete Baseball," A. Ramirez said. "Our fans are amazing and always make every game exciting. Just like us, the fans are anxious to get back out to the field."
The community of Banquete has fan pages on social media where they post photographs of the senior athletes and motivational post to ensure that the players stay motivated and encouraged during this time.
"The community has been supporting us through everything and I believe that they will continue to support us no matter what," Seagroves said. "They have been posting prayers for us on different social media browsers."
"It’s an awesome feeling," Seagroves said.
Other seniors on the team are Quentin Hinojosa, son of Rolando and Diana Hinojosa, who plans on attending DMC and TAMUK to study criminal justice, Carlos Ramirez, son of Carlos Ramirez and Marivel Gomez, TAMUK - engineering, and Junior Guitierez, son of Jesus and Renee Guitierez, DMC Dental Hygiene.