The cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season in Minnesota at the high school level is one of the many casualties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Athletes are in sports for different reasons. Maybe it’s the ability to compete at a high level. Maybe it’s a pathway to college. Maybe it’s simply being with friends. The spring season may not feature each student’s favorite sport, but for seniors, it holds special meaning because of the fact that this is their final season in high school athletics.
The 2020 seniors do not get the chance to play out their careers this spring due to the pandemic, so the Echo Press reached out to each senior from area teams as a way to recognize them. Each program’s story highlighting those seniors will run online and within print issues of the Echo Press in the coming weeks.
For those who responded, it’s an opportunity to share their thoughts centered around four questions: Why do they play their sport? What do they miss most about it this spring? What is a favorite memory from competing? What are their future plans after high school, and do they plan on playing the game again?
The Osakis softball team featured three seniors this year in Maddie Johanson, Cassie LeBrun and Chaeli Falzone. They were part of a group of 10 letter winners looking to make strides from an 8-11 season in 2019.
Cassie LeBrun, Infielder
Why she plays: I play softball because it was the sport I grew up playing with my sisters in our backyard. During the summer, you would find us playing our own little game of softball. I just grew to love the sport after that.
What she misses most: What I miss the most about playing softball is our pregame rituals and just constantly making memories with my team that would have lasted as a life-long memory. I also miss just playing the game overall and having that adrenaline rush that the game gives you.
Favorite memory: Picking one memory is hard, but the one that sticks out the most was our 2017 season when we played in Alexandria for the 6AA North elimination game to proceed to the section tournament. The outcome of the last game we played to make the section tournament was insane! (Osakis won two elimination games that day on May 25, 2017. The Silverstreaks beat Pequot Lakes 8-6 before edging Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale 6-5 to advance to play at Waite Park Fields on May 30)
Future plans: I plan to attend Bemidji State University to major in nursing and minor in psychology. As for softball, I plan to keep it casual, maybe join a slow-pitch league in the summer or play softball as an intramural in college.
Maddie Johanson, 1B/DP
Why she plays: I play softball because it is so much more than just a sport. Softball to me is a family, an experience, a lesson, and an escape. Softball gives me time away from reality and the ability to just focus on one thing for a period of time.
Softball also has allowed me to make countless relationships and friendships with my teammates that I would not have gotten without it. Playing softball has given me the opportunity to be a part of a team, learn leadership skills, and to have fun all while doing what we love.
What she misses most: I miss so much about softball. I truly miss just the overall environment of the games. I miss hearing the fence shake and cheers from the dugout. I miss the adrenaline and excitement when going up to bat.
Even though it was a pain in the butt, I also miss the sun glaring into my eyes at first base, which made it very hard to see. But, most of all, I miss my teammates and coaches. It is so hard to imagine all of the memories we could have made this season.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory of softball was when our bus broke down on the way to a game in Annandale. Our coach and assistant coach had to use athletic tape to try to hold a piece of the bus together just to get to the shop so we could continue on the road. We were quite late to that game, but we made such a hilarious and unforgettable memory that day.
Future plans: I plan to attend Bemidji State University to major in elementary education and get my coaching certificate. I will not be playing any college sports, but I am looking forward to playing on the intramural sports teams.
Chaeli Falzone, OF
Why she plays: I play softball not only because I love the sport, but when I am out on the field with my team there is so much I learn from my coaches, my team, and from myself.
Coach (John) Stigman is a great role model. He teaches us that in order to achieve our goals, we have to focus our mindset and keep striving every day.
What she misses most: What I miss most about playing softball is getting to hang out with all my teammates and coaches. They always get my mind off everything else that is going on off the field.
Favorite memory: My favorite softball memory is when we were playing Melrose during summer league and the sprinklers kept going off as we were playing. We moved fields and those sprinklers started going off too, so back to the varsity field we went and played in the wet grass.
Future plans: Next fall, I am attending Central Lakes College in Brainerd for traditional nursing.