The TSSAA has officially canceled spring sports for the 2020 school year. With that comes the abrupt end for seniors across the county. Some will have the luxury of moving on to play college ball in their respective sports, but the harsh reality is that most kids will never get to play the game they grew up loving anymore.
We at Main Street Preps want to do something to honor these seniors. It is not much, but we are hopeful these senior spotlights will shed light on stellar careers enjoyed on the fields.
This particular article will focus on the Portland Panthers baseball seniors: Connor Simmons, Estaban Astrada, Triston Alford, and Robbie Bradley.
These four seniors have enjoyed three years of success under current head coach Justin Martin and were looking to make the turn this season.
In the first game of the season, Portland bested District 9-AAA foe Gallatin 2-1 for their first district win in two seasons.
“I want them to understand how appreciative I am for them,” head coach Justin Martin said. “They are the reason this program is headed in the direction it is headed, and I want them to know they did everything right and everything I asked of them.”
Coach Martin continued on each senior and what that individual has meant to him.
“Connor Simmons accepted the challenge is stepping into a leadership role, and he did a great job of being a teammate,” Martin said. “If you are a good teammate, then ultimately, you are a good person. He is a great ballplayer and did everything we asked. We will be missed.”
“Robbie Bradley made the biggest leap skill-wise of any baseball player I have been around,” Martin continued. “He went from not playing his freshman year to being our Ace by the end of junior year. He accepted that role heading into this year, and he comes out in the first outing and gives us an amazing performance against Gallatin; I know he more coming. I”m proud of him accepting the challenge to work hard and be a great teammate.”
“Tristan Alford worked extremely hard and became an outstanding hitter and reliable bullpen pitcher,” Martin said. “We had no problems putting him in because he earned that trust to do what he was supposed to do. He is a great teammate, a guy that worked hard and embraced being part of the program and team.”
“Estaban Astrada is the hardest working kid I have ever been around,” Martin added. “Anything you needed, he would do it. It did not matter if it was sweep the locker room, take out the trash, catch bullpen - anything - he did it. He worked hard every day with a great attitude. As a coach, he was what you wanted from a player: consistent, his work ethic and his attitude.”
One thing that will sting the most for Martin and his program is not having his seniors around to teach them about how to be a good teammate, which is what Martin builds his program around.
“My sophomores got to experience one year of it, and my freshman did not get the chance,” he continued. “Not having those four be able to infuse their growth, their work ethic into these younger kids is what hurts the most. Those are the traits you want your seniors to pass down.”