Parent/Senior Day helps shine light on Firebird seniors on, off baseball diamond
DEVILS LAKE – Their convincing 13-1 victory on May 17 over Grand Forks Central defined the Devils Lake Firebirds in more ways than one.
On the one hand, the defining characteristic was pretty straightforward. In a game where everything went right for the winner and wrong for the loser, the Firebirds received a jolt in the arm from the win. Momentum is everything, and you wouldn’t have to tell the Firebirds twice.
However, the second defining characteristic of the game came from the five seniors on the team. After all, the game also fell on Parent/Senior Day. The festivities that followed help emphasize that, for Parker Swanson, Hayden Hofstad, Maxwell Elfman, Kaden Brandvold and Caleb Schneider, the high school baseball journey was almost at an end. In what was a high school career rife with adversity, the chapter was on the brink of turning the page.
While all five seniors were in the batting order against Grand Forks Central, Schneider also had the opportunity to toe the rubber. Schneider, who went on to pitch a five-inning complete game, kept it simple regarding what he felt.
“Great,” Schneider said. “Nice to get a win on Legion Field for a final high school baseball game. [I] couldn’t ask for a better game itself.”
Heidi Schneider, Caleb’s mother, has seen her son go through it all on the diamond. In particular, Heidi has seen her son develop into a young adult, dating back to his days in tee-ball through summer leagues.
“We have summer baseball, and also, we still have a couple [of] months of it, but his high school career is pretty close to done with sports,” Heidi said. “That’s tough as a mom because I have always been watching him since he has played tee-ball, all the way up, following him in baseball. Lost a year there because of the COVID-19, but just saying, [he came] from a little boy to a young man, and everything that he has done to improve and help his team improve, that’s probably just realizing hopefully we are still playing next week, so it’s not the final final, but it is actually just that knowing that this is the last high school game on this field. He’ll get to play more this summer, but that’s about it.”
Although adversity for former senior classes might have revolved around managing between athletics and academics, Caleb and his senior teammates had to additionally deal with factors they could not control even if they wanted to.
In what amounted to a pandemic that wiped away one entire baseball season and almost another, Caleb understood the hill the team would have to climb once they returned to the diamond. However, Schneider passed each mental test with flying colors and, as a result, bonded with his senior teammates even more.
“It has been tough,” Caleb said. “Not playing sophomore year kind of hurt because we knew we were going to be good, and last year…we were young and didn’t have experience. Then, coming into this year, trusting everyone again because they all had experience from last year, and it just made it easy. We all bonded, and we trust one another.”
“Like he [Schneider] was saying, them not being able to play their sophomore year…we had a good group of leaders that would have been seniors for them to learn for, so they had to kind of learn on the fly,” Devils Lake Baseball head coach Brent Luehring said. “These are more of a lead-by-example type group rather than more of a vocal group, which is fine. I mean, they go out and do their jobs and show up every day ready to play, and it really helps our underclassmen. If they are locked in, the underclassmen are locked in. It’s just a team effort.”
The senior Firebirds have learned how to live with reality and adjust to it accordingly from this team effort. More importantly, each senior understood that bumps in the road will occur. Instead of turning back, it is how each bump is navigated that builds character.
From the start of their high school baseball career to their last home game in a Firebird uniform, Parent/Senior Day helped define the journey.
“You are going to make mistakes, and you learn from those mistakes,” Heidi said. “As you get older, it’s easier to learn from those mistakes and not get down on yourself. And have goals. The goals, they don’t have to be big goals, but little goals here and there to get through life and to know that one chapter of your life is done, but you are going to start a new chapter here shortly.”
John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.