Any successful program starts with a strong foundation.
For Central baseball, 2020 was another chance to build the groundwork for the future.
“We were in a better spot this year than the last two years,” said Head Coach Jerrod White.
“This was the biggest group of kids we’ve had come out since I’ve played,” said senior Jerry Gaylor. “We had like 41 kids come out.”
The signs of a program turnaround are thanks in large part to the team’s three seniors.
“Jerry, Hunter and Jared, they’ve been with us since I came over,” White said. “They were sophomores then and they’ve led by example every step of the way.”
Jerry Gaylor, Hunter Harrell and Jared Allen are three players who’ve endured more than most during a high school career.
“There was so much crap we found at that field,” Jerry said about Nichols Park. “There were needles and stuff we’d find.”
For years, Central played games at Nichols, which often received criticism for its condition.
“It was not really a good place to practice,” said senior Jared Allen.
Nor was it a good place to play.
So last year the Bulldogs shared Meador Park with Drury as they transitioned to a field they could finally call their own.
It’s a brand new complex with a turf infield just three miles from the school, located on Pythian Street.
“It was going to be my field basically,” Jared said. “It’s the team’s field. It’s our field.”
“I couldn’t thank our parents more. Me, Hunter and Jared’s parents worked so hard to help us get that,” Jerry said.
However, due to the pandemic, the brand new dugouts at the brand new field will sit empty until at least this summer.
“We had one practice on our brand new field,” Jerry said.
Still, these seniors are taking the setback in stride.
Jerry will head to Drury to continue his wrestling career.
Jared plans to study youth ministries at Evangel.
That’s where Hunter hopes to keep playing baseball.
Meanwhile, the Central program will continue to build on the foundation they’ve laid.
“We’re brainstorming right now, how can we celebrate these guys next year, whether it be throwing out the first pitch or in some other way to remember and commemorate their contributions to the program,” White said.
Those are contributions that might be felt for years to come.
The Bulldogs were also scheduled to host a district on their new field this year.