Walsh Jesuit, Alliance reflect on opportunity for one last game
AKRON -- The game ended with Walsh Jesuit beating Alliance’s baseball team 23-1, but that’s not what Saturday evening was about.
All that mattered to the Warriors and Aviators was that they got one last chance to throw the uniform on and give the seniors one last game at Canal Park.
The way it came about was even more special after Massillon had to drop out on Thursday due to someone contracting the coronavirus.
RubberDucks General Manager Jim Pfander got on the horn and Alliance stepped in, keeping the game and hope for a better future alive.
“You think about last week and the experience that Archbishop Hoban and St. Vincent-St. Mary got,” Pfander said. “They had that chance to relive or at least play a baseball game for the first time this season. It’s hard not to get emotional when you see the kids have that experience with their parents. They had the chance to walk out on the field with their parents.
“We had a team not be able to play 48 hours before the game. Your heart goes out to that team. Your heart goes out to Walsh Jesuit. There was a very good chance we weren’t going to have a game, so for Alliance to step up, assemble and get their team together, it’s awesome.”
That was the consensus in both dugouts as seniors Connor Bailey, Stanley Kaczmar, Nicholas Leonatti, Jamie Perebzak and Robert Shepherd put on the Warriors jersey.
“This was an awesome experience,” Leonatti said. “It was great to play in front of my teammates again under the lights. It was a beautiful atmosphere. It was great that Alliance was able to come play us.”
Joe Thompson, Logan Bell, Nathan Heater, Trevor Strata, J’Dynn Seals and Christian Hall felt the same way for the Aviators.
Bell, who also lost the last week of his wrestling season, talked about representing the community and getting to play for his coaches, friends and teammates.
“I’m happy to play with these guys one more time,” he said. “It meant a lot to me. I didn’t get to my goals in wrestling and then had my baseball season cut short. Just putting this on and putting on the brand new jerseys means the world to me.”
That joy wasn’t just limited to the baseball players.
Walsh coach Chris Kaczmar was happy to see his players put on the maroon and gold and got to see his sons Henry Kaczmar and Stanley Kaczmar play for the Warriors with it being Stanley’s last game.
“It really was a roller coaster,” Chris Kaczmar said. “We’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for months and months. We completely understand what happened at Massillon. For Alliance to step up and join us here and keep this special night going says a lot about Coach [Jeff] Graffice and the Alliance community. We’re honored to be here and play a single game in 2020, especially having a senior son myself. It’s an emotional day for all of us and we’re grateful for the chance.”
Graffice echoed that belief and didn’t hesitate to play the game even if it meant scrambling for a day and a half to make it work.
“It’s just an experience they should have by now,” he said. “Tonight doesn’t make up for the 27 games lost. At least, we got to get together one last time. It’s not the best circumstance having to wear masks, but at least I got to see my seniors one last time.
“When school ended March 12, they were gone. It all ended. To get to come here tonight to play a great team in a great atmosphere, it was nice.”