By Mike Flanagan,
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor -
Wellesley High School varsity baseball has been the cream of the crop in the Bay State Conference for the better part of the last decade. Reigning champions of the Carey Division, the Raiders were set to have another strong season this spring.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced Wellesley baseball and all other spring high school athletics to suspend the start to the 2020 season until May 4 at the earliest (subject to change).
“This certainly is something that we weren’t prepared for and didn’t want to deal with,” said Wellesley head coach Rob Kane when asked about how he and his team are holding up during quarantine. “So, now everybody on the team is doing their own thing because I can’t give out any instruction. I can’t tell guys what to do but I can send words of encouragement and updates, but that’s where we are at. Right now, there’s not much we can do in terms of things that are baseball related. You can do your individual training at home, but technically, the players probably shouldn’t be outside playing catch with one another. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that we will be able to play, but we’re just playing it safe and trying to go about this quarantine the right way. If we get the chance to play, we’ll worry about getting the team ready when we’re allowed to.”
Headlining the returns for Wellesley baseball are four senior captains in star Harvard-committed ace pitcher Jay Driver, Dartmouth-committed pitcher/corner infielder Max Zajec, catcher and Cornell football commit Holt Fletcher and middle infielder/reliever and Dickinson football commit Matt Maiona, about all of whom coach Kane spoke extremely highly.
“Our four senior captains [Max] Zajec, [Holt] Fletcher, [Jay] Driver and [Matt] Maiona are all going to go on and play a sport in college,” said Kane. “When you have four college athletes - whether it's football or baseball - at the top of your lineup, then you know your team is going to be pretty good. We were excited about this year. We knew we had the chance to be really good. The schedule was built so that we had a chance at the Super Eight, playing some of the big boys like Malden Catholic, Xaverian, St. John’s Prep, Mansfield, Walpole, Needham and Braintree. Our schedule was built to give us a chance. Some teams go out and play cupcakes, scheduling wins against Division III teams. We go out and play teams that are going to make us better and get us best prepared for the tournament. This year was no different. Unfortunately, it’s already been decided that if we do end up playing this year, that there will be no non-league games. We would play all the Bay State teams once and do a home-and-home with Needham. So, hopefully we will get the chance to play some games and have the chance to win the Bay State Conference and defend our title from last year. We will go out and we'll play, get better, and be ready by the time we get to June.”
With the season and daily life currently on hold, it seems everybody is looking for ways to stay busy. Wellesley High School baseball coaches and players have taken on a whole new meaning to “staying busy” during quarantine, as the team decided to make the best of their downtime throughout the last week by raising money to support The Greater Boston Food Banks. How has Wellesley High baseball been able to raise this money? By auctioning off sports memorabilia, equipment and game tickets on the team’s Twitter account (@raider_baseball), run by coach Kane.
“We have about 50-60 kids in our program and some very outgoing and dedicated parents. We’re just trying to create ways that allow people to stay engaged and involved with baseball, thinking about baseball, while helping out the Greater Boston Food Banks,” said Kane. “I was watching online what Chris [Cotillo, Red Sox beat writer for MassLive] was doing, and we tried to piggyback off of that a little bit and try take advantage of the generosity that people have expressed in the items we’ve put up. Our goal is to raise $5,000. If we can raise $5,000 from Twitter and our GoFundMe, that would be great.”
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as game highlights, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram @flano0.