Pirates turn on lights to honor 12 seniors

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  • The lights were on at the Ballpark at Fernandina Beach for 20 minutes Tuesday night to honor the Pirates’ 12 seniors. SPECIAL PHOTO
    The lights were on at the Ballpark at Fernandina Beach for 20 minutes Tuesday night to honor the Pirates’ 12 seniors. SPECIAL PHOTO
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No cracks of the bat. No cheering fans. No Pirate Burgers sizzling on the grill.

But on Tuesday night, the Fernandina Beach High School baseball team still honored its 12 seniors.

The Pirates joined the Be The Light movement that’s sweeping the nation during the coronavirus pandemic. The lights at the Ballpark at Fernandina Beach were turned on for 20 minutes Tuesday to honor the 2020 seniors.

“We thought it would be something good to keep the kids positive, and let them know we’re thinking about them,” FBHS Coach Jon Shave said. “It’s a terrible situation, and those young men have worked their tails off for this team and their senior year. It’s horrible that there’s a chance they may not finish it out.”

Aidan Sweatt was one of those seniors, and he and a couple of his teammates met on the field Tuesday. The rest were on group chat.

“We drove up there, me and the family, just to take it in one last time,” the Pirate short stop said. “You never know if you’re going to get to play again. It was good to see the field under the lights again.”

Missing out on much of their senior season so far has taken a toll, Sweatt said.

“It’s hurt a lot of the older guys because it was our last chance to play together,” he said. “We’ve been friends since we were little guys playing T-ball together. Babe Ruth, Little League and All-Stars. This is our last season, and we were really looking forward to it.

“It’s kind of a crazy time right now. And you don’t really know what’s happening. We’re all really grateful for the time we did have, but hopefully there’s a chance we can play one more game together.”

Sweatt said he’s trying to keep in shape in case the season isn’t a wash.

“We’re kind of limited on what we can do,” he said. “We’ve been throwing the Wiffle balls around. We’ve been going on a lot of family runs, doing family workouts. Just really trying to stay in shape in case we do get that chance to go one more time. Get another crack at it.”

Sweatt will play again. He’s committed to play baseball at the University of North Florida.

“That’s also been on my mind a little bit,” he said. “I really want to play high school ball again because that’s really made me who I am today.

“If worst comes to worst, and we don’t get to play again, I get the chance to play baseball at the next level. I guess I’ll just have to get ready for that.”

According to the Florida High School Athletic Association website, schools will remain closed through May 3.

“Pending schools are back in session and afforded the opportunity to resume activities after May 3, by federal, state and local authorities, the FHSAA will follow the advice and guidance available to us at that time regarding the continuance of all FHSAA spring sports,” reads to FHSAA coronavirus update. “In light of the current situation, the FHSAA staff is actively working on creative solutions for the continuance of spring sports, which could extend through June 30.

“The FHSAA does understand the hardships caused by COVID-19 and the inability to play spring sports. If we are not able to continue spring sports, the FHSAA is working diligently to create a plan regarding additional eligibility for students who have not been able to participate in spring sports.”

So ball fields are quiet when seasons should be in full swing.

“We’ve never experience anything like this in our lives,” Shave said. “It’s really a tough situation, seeing the empty field every day and the gates locked. No one is able to use the facilities.

“This is baseball season, and this is the time we all look forward to. It’s strange to not be at the ballpark every day.”

But, school continues for the student-athletes. 

“Online schooling has been a little tough on me,” Sweatt said. “I always have a lot of questions. I work really hard at school, so I really have to communicate with my teachers a lot.

“I still have a couple of worksheets and essays to write, but I’m trying to stay on top of it. Trying not to procrastinate.”

But, he can do it all from home in the comfort of his pajamas.

“That is the one advantage,” Sweatt laughed. “It’s pretty easy to get ready for school. We’re just trying to stay positive and get some work done and keep pushing through it.”

Visit www.fhsaa.org for updates.