By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In order to have a field of dreams, a baseball player needs a field.
Back on March 16, all the student/athletes involved in TSSAA baseball could only play the waiting game in hopes of having a return to the diamond in 2020.
Close to home at Tipton-Rosemark Academy, a pair of Rebel seniors kept a close ear to what decisions were coming down from Murfreesboro and Nashville about the future of schools and the season.
Jonah Van Kampen and Jacob Dodson had carved out solid careers for TRA under the guidance of Head Coach Brad Smith. And the 2020 season was going to be another audition for the seniors to impress college skippers and try to earn that elusive State title for the Rebels.
But the ultimate winner of the 2020 season was COVID-19/coronavirus. The pandemic led to Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association canceling all spring sports and all other remaining events in the 2019-20 school year. That decision also included the postponement of the BlueCross Basketball Championships.
Now the dreams of Van Kampen, Dodson and other members of the Class of 2020 across the state of reaching the college level have a major setback.
“I’m definitely disappointed that sports and school have been canceled,” Van Kampen said. “I completely understand why, but it’s disappointing to not be able to finish my senior year and to miss my senior baseball season.”
Dodson said the way his high school baseball career came to an end is hard to take.
“ It is heartbreaking to know that I will not be able to play my senior season which I have been looking forward to for a long time,” he said.
Dodson, the son of Tim and Jerra Dodson, has enjoyed his time at TRA participating in the Student Council and Links of Love Leadership Team. But his claim to fame on campus was being a standout baseball player.
After the opening week and gaining momentum, Dodson and his teammates felt the shock waves of COVID-19.
“There have been a lot of unanswered questions on why things are like they are,” Dodson acknowledged. “But I have tried to stay positive and trust God’s plan through every situation.”
Since March 16, Van Kampen battled his doubts and fears with action.
“Since we first got delayed on March 16, I focused on the things I could control like keeping myself in baseball shape,” he recalled. “I tried not to worry about whether or not we’d be able to continue our season because I knew it was out of my control.”
Things Van Kampen controlled during his time at TRA were playing football and being a members of student council, National Honor Society, Links of Love Leadership Team, and Beta Club.
The son of Ken and Carrie Van Kampen drew on his faith to remain strong during the time away from the field and campus.
“I mainly focused on maintaining a positive mindset and keeping myself ready to go in case we could’ve played again,” Van Kampen said. “I missed being on the field with my teammates everyday the most.”
Dodson used the time away from Rebel Field to stay in shape and start looking toward life after Rosemark.
“The thing has been going through my mind is how can I best prepare myself for the next step in my life,” he said. “The thing I miss the most is getting to mess around and spend time with my teammates and coaches.”
Smith spoke highly on his senior class entering the 2020 season and had high hopes for the crew of JT May, Coalter Bridgers, Ethan Petrowski, Logan Jones, Mac Fullen, Tyler Byrd, Dodson and Van Kampen.
“I think our team had some very high expectations coming in to the season,” Van Kampen said. “With that being said we definitely didn’t get out to the best start, so I think we missed out on an opportunity to deal with that adversity early on in the season which would have helped us achieve our goals in May.”
Dodson said the 2020 Rebels had the ability to earn their coach his first golden plaque at TRA.
“I think that deep down we all wanted to win a State championship and we knew that this could have been the year to do it,” he said. “We have now missed out on the opportunity to even get a chance to compete for a championship ring.”
Dodson said a championship ring is an object but his real prize was the peers and men he shared the dugout with over the years.
“The TRA family has shown me a tremendous amount of support and love throughout the years,” he recalled. “I am grateful that I was able to attend a school that has such a close-knit environment where everyone supports everyone.
“I would like to say thank you to every person that has played such a special role in my time at TRA from family, friends, coaches, teammates as well as teachers and staff,” he added.
Van Kampen said Rebel Nation is a true gift in the classroom, in the Dominican Republic, in the gymnasium, the gridiron or the ball field.
“I’d like to say that I’ve been blessed with some of the best coaches, teammates, and supporters anyone could ask for,” he said. “And I can’t thank them enough for all they do for me.”
Now a part of Van Kampen, Dodson and the Class of 2020 legacy will be the coronavirus. Both young men said they learned life lessons from the experience.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t take anything for granted,” Van Kampen concluded. “You never know when something you love is going to be taken from you.”
“I have learned from all of this to not take things for granted and play every game like its my last because at any moment it could be taken away,” Dodson concluded.