In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, five baseball players stayed together and provided each other a sense of normalcy.
Sophomore Dom Hughes, redshirt junior Carson Seymour, junior Jordan Wicks, sophomore Nico Rodriguez and junior Daniel Carinci are all playing in the Northwoods League this summer, and luck would have it that they are all on the same team in Rockford, Illinois.
After playing in just 17 of their 55 game regular season schedule in 2020, these Kansas State baseball players had their season stripped away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were just starting to play really good baseball and really like our team,” K-State head baseball coach Pete Hughes said.
No baseball for the rest of the season — that’s something a baseball player never wants to hear. All of the hard work that was put in during the offseason was just for 17 games.
With the season cancelled, and the future uncertain for so many, Hughes still found a way for a handful of his players to find their way back onto a baseball diamond together.
The Rockford Rivets, a summer team in the Northwoods League, is a team Hughes has sent players to before and even watched his second-oldest son, Hal, play for in the past. Now, he has five players of his own that he can root for in Rockford.
“It was an easy [place] for me to send those guys,” Hughes said. “Any time you can get a nucleus of your team playing together it only helps, you know, it helps when those guys get back to campus.”
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Coach Hughes said a rule change by the NCAA this summer allowed him to send five of his players to Rockford, while previous restrictions would have allowed only four members from one school to play on the same summer team.
The Northwoods League has been home to some big stars in the past. The list of former Northwoods League players to make it big includes Ben Zobrist, Brandon Crawford, Max Scherzer and Chris Sale.
Other Wildcats are also playing across the Northwoods League, including redshirt senior Tyler Eckberg, senior Zach Kokoska and junior Dylan Phillips all playing for the Mankato Moondogs in Minnesota.
Senior Cameron Thompson is currently playing for the Waterloo Bucks in Iowa, while junior Eric Torres is playing for the Green Bay Booyah in Wisconsin.
For the players at Rockford though, they say having familiar faces around in an unfamiliar place is comforting.
“The five guys we got here are awesome,” Carinci said. “The biggest thing is just like having someone you know around.”
Through all of the time together, the players say that they have learned quite a bit about each other. They have had time for cards, video games and the occasional trip to the golf course.
A couple of the players say that they also found out that their Dom Hughes can sing after he sang the national anthem in full uniform before a game.
Seymour says besides adding a sense of comfort, having his K-State teammates around also helps him on the field.
“They know my strengths, they know my weaknesses, and then they just know how to help me,” Seymour said. “That’s the nice part about having your teammates on your team, because they kind of know your tendencies, know what’s going on and kind of help you when you’re struggling.”
Coach Hughes and the players say that they think the time these five spend together this summer can build a bond that will last on and off the field.
“They’re developing relationships, and having memories that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives this summer,” he said. “Building that bond that those teammates have, and being able to do it this summer when our season got cut short makes it more invaluable.”