The season that never was

Alpine High School softball and baseball players Jaiden Portillo and Travis Ruckman stand in an empty stadium after their seasons were cut short by the coronavirus outbreak. All school sports were suspended in March, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently canceled school in the state through the spring semester. 

Seniors Aaron Fellows, Travis Ruckman, and others were expecting an April full of baseball games and practices at Kokernot Field. Instead, their final extra-curricular activities at Alpine High will include salvaging some graduation traditions.

“I'm just trying to see my friends for one last time. A lot of us have different plans after high school,” said Fellows, who is also president of the Class of 2020. “We’re trying our best, and I know the administration is trying their best, but it’s so unpredictable.”

Last week the senior class took part in a Zoom meeting organized by Fellows and the other class officers.

“There were about 35 kids there,” said Fellows. “They were the ones who really care about what happens to their graduation. It was good seeing everyone. If we had been at school, it would have been a little bit of chaos. But the fact that everyone hadn’t seen each other for a month, everyone chilled out and choked up seeing each other.”

Soon, the class will get to decide what their final days of high school will look like.

“I know we’re going to try and do something on the day of graduation,” said Aaron.  “It’s either going to be a parade or a virtual graduation, and try and postpone the actual graduation ceremony for a later date.”

Ruckman also took part in the last virtual meeting. He says his team is still thinking about an April with no baseball.

“We were just getting to where we needed to be to win some ballgames,” said Ruckman. “But they still have a lot of potential, and if they keep working, then they’ll be just fine next year.”

The Fightin’ Bucks have won District crowns over the last four seasons under Head Coach Adam Llanez. The 2016 team reached the Regional Finals for the first time since 1994. Last year Alpine made it to the third round of the playoffs, with back-to-back 2-1 victories over Denver City in the Area Championship. They were ousted by Wall in the next round, a team that only lost one ballgame én route to a 3A championship.

Defending their District title was going to be a challenge this season after a slew of talented ballplayers graduated in 2019. The Bucks were winless in early March when the season was postponed, but hoped to be peaking in April against their biggest rivals from Crane and Presidio.

“I don’t know why it happened,” said Ruckman regarding the poor fortune of him and his classmates. “But it’s going to make us stronger in the end. We've had a unique high school experience. We just keep taking what life gives us and move forward.”

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