New Prairie baseball

The close-knit nature of the New Prairie baseball team is helping players stick together at a difficult time.

In times like these, your family keeps you sane, keeps you hopeful.

New Prairie baseball is as close a team comes to a family. It's a trait that's not only helped them reach the preseason top 10 in the state in Class 3A, but also keeps them hopeful amidst the uncertainty that is the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We call the coaches on a daily basis," senior Gavin Kelly said. "We talk about baseball, but mostly it's just to see how their families are doing. We all really care about each other and right now, safety comes first. Sure, we want to play baseball at some point this year. But we've all kind of agreed the best thing for us right now is just staying safe. This is a big deal. It's bigger than baseball."

Since head coach Mark Schellinger took over, family is something he's preached every day. With the amount of down time there is in baseball, it's expected for players to grow closer than they would in other sports.

But there's something about a close-knit baseball team that can push a good team over the top, turning it into a great one.

"No matter what, baseball or no baseball, we're all going to stay in each other's lives," Kelly said. "That's how Coach Schellinger runs the program. We're one big family. I think that's one thing that definitely helps us playing on the diamond, too. At school, we're always together. It doesn't matter what grade you're in. If you play baseball, you've got a family here."

For the seniors, baseball turned them all into a family years ago. Whether they played together or against one another since the elementary school days, they've all known each other for the majority of their lives thanks to the sport.

Even though they're not currently in school together, they still text in a group-chat every day and Facetime as much as possible.

"We're all really close," senior Frank Turley said. "Especially the seniors. I've known all of them since I was little and we talk a lot. Right now we're just trying to stay positive by hitting and throwing every day, just in case we do end up playing this year."

Turley's luckier than most, seeing as his twin brother, JC, also plays baseball for New Prairie. The two are natural throwing and hitting partners and are able to help each other out in times like these where organized practices are suspended until at least May 1.

But for others that aren't quite as fortunate, they have to make sure to get their work in alone. Whether it be hitting off a tee into their net in the backyard or throwing with someone in their family, they're making due.

"There's going to be a lot of dads with sore arms in a month or so," joked New Prairie athletic director Ben Bachmann.

For four seniors that are as close as anyone on the team, they train at KB Sports Center in downtown La Porte — a sports training facility owned by New Prairie senior Wyatt Kmiecik's father, Mark Kmiecik. KB's provides a much-needed training center where they can benefit from working in more ways than most kids in the area can by themselves.

The importance of doing so rings especially crucial with the baseball season delayed and not yet canceled. The possibility of losing their senior season is a scary, depressing thought. It's impossible for the seniors not to think about it every so often. But by staying in touch with their teammates and coaches, talking about their lives aside from baseball, helps immensely.

"It sucks," JC Turley said. "But it's one of those things where it's kind of out of our control. All we can do is continue to work and hopefully we can have some kind of season. It would mean a lot to have one because this is the last year us seniors can all play together."

Email: jparodi@thenewsdispatch.com. Twitter: @jack_parodi

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