The Marist baseball class of 2020 was a special group whose final season, like all others, was sadly cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the unfortunate and unanticipated end to the season, the guys came together for four years with one common goal: to win. Certainly, they were not able to do that without each other.
The class of 2020 group showed their passion for the game they grew up loving with years of dedication, consistency, and ambition. As a class, they were able to put together a stellar 89 victories throughout their four years. It’s a feat that Marist baseball hasn’t seen in over a decade.
“The success that this class has seen during our time at Marist is something that I attribute to our coaching staff’s attention to detail in our preparation,” senior John Port said. He further called on the team’s collective willingness to work and the quality of upperclassmen that the current seniors had to look up to as freshmen and sophomores. “Those older guys showed us how to win, what it takes to be successful, and set the tone of the program to be successful.”
Port was the first walk on for Marist baseball in over 15 years, and was one of few to do it in program history.
“Initially, joining the team was daunting,” he said. “I was confident in my ability to perform, but I didn’t know anyone and they didn’t know me.” When Port joined, the team already had a full semester of bonding under its belt, so it was challenging to try and get to know everyone in such a short time.
“I remember it took me like two weeks to finally get everyone’s names right,” he said. “Luckily, my teammates were very willing to accept a newcomer, which made it easier.”
For Port, his entire collegiate career changed in the blink of an eye. He initially chose to enroll at Marist because of the academic opportunities, but once he saw there was a chance to continue playing, he decided to try out. He turned that opportunity into a 2017 MAAC championship and a run at the NCAA baseball championship. Marist baseball offered him what he says was “surreal.”
“I’ll remember winning the MAAC Championship for the rest of my life,” he said. “The feeling is intoxicating. And going to play Florida [in the NCAA tournament] was incredible. The atmosphere of that game was just different. We felt like professionals out there. It was surreal to come home, rewatch the game, and see us on TV.”
Austin Phillips, another member of the class of 2020, was sidelined for most of his collegiate career due to two ACL tears. He still found a way to contribute to the team. Since his freshman season, he appeared on the mound 12 times; during his freshman campaign, he threw in 10 games and started one. As a senior, Phillips took the mound twice and certainly would have been given more time if it were not for the canceled season.
Anyone who knows Marist baseball knows how much Phillips wanted to be on the field. He was constantly working to get back, and his teammates and coaches acknowledged that. He served as the first base coach at times when he was injured, just in order to help in any way. It not only helped the team, but Phillips, too.
“It was an honor serving as the first base coach because it’s a job that’s more important than you think” he said. “It tells me that coach [Tracz] has trust in me controlling the game.”
Phillips worked hard to get healthy for his senior year, bouncing back from two gruesome injuries. His resilience makes the season’s premature conclusion just that much more sour. He called it a “crappy situation” and noted that the most difficult aspect was that it was out of their control. He also felt as though there were better alternatives to canceling the season in its entirety.
“I don’t agree nor disagree with the decision but I do feel there were better alternatives then canceling the entire season,” he said. “I thought that suspending the games a few weeks and not allowing anyone but coaches, players, and umpires at the field was a much better idea, but if the NCAA and Marist didn’t send people home they would definitely be facing a ton of lawsuits.”
Although the 2020 season was abridged, the seniors believed in their ability to assemble and make a championship run when it was time to do so. What they were able to achieve was certainly indisputable throughout their four years. One MAAC championship speaks for itself; then again, so does their bond. Perhaps that’s an achievement unto itself.
Edited by Will Bjarnar
Header photo from Marist Athletics