OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — When the pandemic started, a lot of things ended.
But school spirit endured, even while high school softball’s 2020 season was canceled, as schools across the United States were forced too close to the public. High school athletes feared their prospects of a senior season had vanished as well.
Shamefully, their first softball game of the season is also their last.
On Wednesday, One Last Game came to Overland Park’s Blue Valley Recreation Complex, offering metro softball teams one final chance to compete.
A series of exhibition games attracted teams from 32 Kansas City area schools. Teams from the Missouri side of the metro didn’t participate since their softball seasons happen during the fall months.
The idea for One Last Game came from Bella Gravatt, a Piper High School senior infielder, who suggested the concept to her coaches. It didn’t take long for the notion to take off, leading to the 32 schools getting involved.
“The best part of this is being able to play with everyone again for one last time. Some of these girls don’t play competitive ball, so it’s good to play with them one last time,” Gravatt said.
“We’re family. When we heard we can’t play together anymore, it was just devastating. To actually be here and step out on the field one more time with these girls is just awesome,” said Emma Martin, Piper third base.
Hundreds of players and their families came out for one last dance through the dirt, refusing to allow a public health concern to win.
Everyone in attendance was required to socially distance, bringing their own folding chairs to the ballpark.
“It was mind-blowing to know there’s so many people. Coaches had to set that up and other players who had to communicate and commit to it. That just shows how much love there is in this sport,” said Rachel Milnark, Piper High’s head coach.
“I hope they remember it, and years from now, they’re going to remember it, and nobody’s going to forget this,” Gravatt added.
Midwest Sports Productions, a Shawnee-based company that produces hundreds of youth sporting events every year, was in charge of One Last Game. Leaders at the Blue Valley Rec Complex donated access to the diamonds for these games.