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  • Matt Ondesko

Expecting the unexpected

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union It hasn’t been easy being a kid these last six months or so. School was shut down back in March, and they had to learn online. Spring sports were cancelled, and summer sports started halfway through the summer. You could say there were a lot of depressed people out there. They didn’t know what to do with themselves until things started to slowly open back up. Those athletes that played sports in spring lost their opportunity to shine. Athletes who played travel ball in the summer had to wait unto early July to see if they could play. When they did finally get out on the field it felt like home. It felt like they never left - except for the early rust that comes without playing for a couple of months. What was surprising was how many athletes just took it upon themselves to train and get better on their own. Even though they weren’t playing any games, and didn’t know if they ever were, they were still out there grinding every day to get better. They wanted to make sure that if they did get a chance to get out on the field this summer, which they eventually did, that they would be ready to go from the start. Eden High School’s Kaitlyn Schmitz didn’t know what to expect this summer after her high school season was canceled because of the pandemic that has gripped the world since late winter. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to play for her NY Diamond Girls travel team this summer - or if they would even have a summer. While Schmitz was waiting for the go-ahead to start playing, she was putting the work in off the field. She was working on her strength and endurance when she wasn’t playing. She just didn’t sit around and do nothing this summer. She put in the work.

“This summer I have been playing softball for the Diamond Girls. But when I'm not playing, I am working on building up strength and endurance. With not being able to play at the beginning of summer, I was really focused on getting strong so I could be prepared for the season,” stated Schmitz. “It was definitely a breath of fresh air to be back on the diamond. Seeing all of my teammates and being back with the softball community was really nice and comforting. Pitching wise, shaking off the rust was fairly easy because I have been throwing at home, working to get better. However, hitting was a little different because I could hit off a tee all I want but it's nothing compared to seeing live pitching. All in all, the transition to being back on the field was fairly smooth and it felt great to be back.” When everyone finally got the green light to start playing in July Schmitz needed to make sure she was ready physically and mentally. She wan’t like a lot of the positions players that could just play their way into game shape. Schmitz was a starting pitcher, and a very good one. She needed to make sure she was ready to step in that circle and help lead her team to some wins this summer. When Schmitz steps in that circle it becomes her circle. She has complete command of the game - and that comes with confidence. If Schmitz doesn’t have the confidence to dominate a game from the beginning, it could be a long night. Confidence is key to the success of a pitcher. Having a short memory is too. Letting up a home run can be devastating for a pitcher. Not being able to get back and focus is just as hard. If a pitcher can refocus, what could have been an easy inning turns into a hard one. “When I step in the circle, confidence is the first thing that I always need to have. With confidence comes the drive to go right at batters and throw strikes instead of working around the strike zone. I try to limit the amount of walks and just throw strikes because I know that I have a solid defense behind me,” stated Schmitz. “Pitchers have to be mentally tough all the time. Pitchers also have to have short memories. Giving up a hit or a walk cannot be the thing that rattles a pitcher for the rest of the inning or game. Sometimes it is difficult to forget what just happened the at-bat before, but it's part of the game and being mentally tough is crucial to being successful.” If there is one thing that Schmitz knows about it’s having a lot of success. When she isn’t playing for the Diamond Girls over the summer, Schmitz is taking her cuts, and throwing her pitches, for an Eden program that is a powerhouse in Western New York. Every year the expectations are for Eden to challenge for a Sectional, and state, title. Some would say that is a lot of pressure to put on high school girls. But, Schmitz likes the fact that expectations are high when she steps on the diamond. “I am definitely blessed to be a part of such a successful softball program at Eden. I try to contribute the most as a leader on the team, especially since we tend to have younger girls on the team. I was once in their shoes as an underclassman on Varsity so I really try to be someone they look up to,” stated Schmitz. “I try to be a leader vocally, but also through being the best hitter and pitcher I can be. I also know what it is like to win a sectional title so to step up and be a leader on the team means a lot to me.”

When softball season is over, Schmitz trades in her glove in for a ball. If there wasn’t enough pressure playing softball for Eden, Schmitz also plays for the highly respected volleyball team. Expectations are through the roof for volleyball at Eden. They have won numerous Section XI, and state, titles, and they play one of the more challenging schedules in the area. They battle the likes of St. Mary’s High School, which is the best volleyball team in WNY, and one of the best in the country. Similar to the softball program, Eden volleyball is also a very strong program and I am grateful to be a part of it. Starting in eighth grade when I got pulled up to varsity for states, I have found myself among some of the best volleyball players in the area and that has helped make me the volleyball player and overall athlete that I am today,” stated Schmitz. “Eden volleyball has given me much more than a state championship medal and for that I am very thankful and blessed.” Normally by now Schmitz would be gearing up to play in her first volleyball tournament for school. As softball season runs down in August that’s when Schmitz starts gearing up for volleyball. However, this season is different. As of right now, volleyball can only start practicing Sept. 21. They are considered an at high-risk sport, along with football. It has made it harder for Schmitz to figure out how to get her practice in when they don’t even know if, and when, they will play this fall. “It's been very tough trying to prepare for my volleyball season this fall. It's tough enough not knowing what school is going to be like so trying to imagine what my senior year is going to look like is overwhelming,” stated Schmitz. “I always get excited for volleyball season so not knowing what is going to happen is concerning and it scares me that I won't have a senior volleyball season. All we can do is hope for the best. High school is about making memories. A lot of senior sin the spring lost that chance to make those final memoirs with their teammates. The cancellation of spring sports meant the cancellation of senior day. Schmitz is hoping to be able to have a senior night. She wants to experience, and enjoy, her last year in high school - however that may be. “When a sport becomes a part of you, you look forward to your senior night in high school and being honored among your teammates,” stated Schmitz. “Thinking that I might not be able to have that chance makes me incredibly sad, and it makes the idea of my senior year incomplete.”


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