By Greg Higgins
Spring break week spent in Frisco at a baseball tournament. It was the tournament that was going to gel the North Lamar Panthers baseball team together. It was the tournament that was going to see what they were made of. One of the biggest and best high school baseball tournaments in the state of Texas seemed like the perfect place to get ready for district play.
North Lamar was going into a district in which they finished second last year thanks to a post-season tournament. This year they still had to play Pleasant Grove three times as well as crosstown rival Paris High. It was a challenge that North Lamar seemed ready to take on.
District would have to wait, though. First, a tournament to play in Frisco. After playing their second game north of Dallas, word came down from UIL that spring sports would be temporarily suspended due to the global pandemic that was upon us. Little did the team know they would not play another game this year together.
“The whole process has been brutal,” head coach Bric Steed said. “I make the biggest impact on young people from January to August….that’s what hurts me the most. I didn’t get two-thirds of the season to talk to them. To have meetings. To see areas of growth. To see how they could make better decisions in these areas.
For six weeks the season sat in limbo while schools district around Texas awaited an official word from UIL officials. Then, it happened. Governor Greg Abbott announced the closing of all schools for the remainder of the 2020 spring semester. Shortly thereafter, the UIL announced the cancellation of spring sports. Just like that the season was over. As quickly as it started, it was yanked out from underneath them.
Enter Jill Conway, mother of senior Cade Conway. Mrs. Conway put together a plan to bring baseball players and coach together. With the help of other parents, teammates and the athletic director, Mrs. Conway decided to surprise coach Steed at his house on Monday night.
“All the parents and kids. There hasn’t been any closure,” Conway said. “We felt like everything just ended and we wanted to have some closure. The parents and the kids all highly respect coach Steed. He brings that out of his players. He creates unity with his team. We couldn’t let the end of the year go by and not recognize him.”
Practicing safe social distancing practices, players, parents and staff all lined up outside coach Steed’s house and honked and cheered as they drove by. Signs hung from the cars that read things like “We hit a home run with you, coach” and “Unity in adversity”. One by one, the cars drove by as the people inside waved and yelled out to their coach. Several cars stopped to hand off cards to coach Steed, who stood at the end of his sidewalk holding his daughter and waving.
Finally, the last vehicle stopped. Two players stepped out and handed coach Steed a framed picture in which the players had signed. Steed stood there looking at the picture for a few moments.
“To be honest, I was shocked,” coach Steed said of the evening. “I didn’t know what to think. I never expected our guys to do that for me. It’s about them. Not me. I’ve been worried about them, so for them to do something like that for me…I love them. I love them.”
From the looks of Monday night, its obvious the team loves coach Steed as well.