- Alma School District
Big Seth- 4/5/2021
By Kevin Taylor
Seth Cole pulls on his No. 27 jersey the same way senior teammate Ledger Anderson does; there's just a lot more of it.
His cap fitted nicely over his head, Cole is leaning on a rail in the dugout while offering words of encouragement to his teammates - many of whom he's known since T-ball, a faraway world where runs, hits, and errors are measured by cuteness and post-game nachos and soft drinks.
It was here, more than a dozen springs ago, where I first noticed the hulky kid playing first base, his batting glove fitted snugly over a first baseman's mitt suited more for 13-year-olds. I remember leaning over to one of my coaches, J.D. Coursey, and asking, 'Who's the eighth-grader playing first base?'
"Oh, that's Seth."
BriLee White, who might have weighed less than 50 pounds then, hit a slow roller to second that, in T-ball, means death for opposing defenses. Now standing on first base, Seth towered over little BriLee (the last player I picked in that year's draft who has since become a lifelong friend to my older son, Logan) like a mama bear protecting her cub.
Which, last football season, is what Seth, now a hulking 325 pounds, did for White and the Airedale football team - a standout offensive lineman protecting his teammates.
Now, he's back.
"I love being back playing baseball after being out of it," Cole said. "I contemplated playing last year, because both of my buddies, Devin Wood and Landon Blair, came back to baseball last year. They almost had me talked into coming back last year, but I wanted to stay in the off-season for weight-lifting."
Back in December, as Alma was finishing the first half of Cole's senior year, a stark reality hit Cole in the face like a brutal north wind.
"I was like, 'Something's not right.' I've never been home before 5 o'clock, except for Wednesdays, when we had 5:55 (a.m.) practices," Cole said. "Sports have always been part of my life, and I wasn't ready to hang it up yet. I wanted to come back and be around the guys; it's definitely been good for me."
Cole's presence doesn't mean he'll be swatting pinch-hit homers or taking over for veteran first baseman Cameron Ray, who, unlike Cole, never put away his baseball gear.
But the mere presence of Cole in the Airedales' dugout means a lot to a program willing to take anyone with a purpose. Two years ago, when Beebe players were laughing and poking fun at the Airedales in the final lap of a brutal 0-27 season, things seemed far less hopeful than they do now.
To be clear, Seth Cole and the Airedales are not going to challenge for the 5A-West championship.
But they have something the 2019 team didn't: some wins. Shoot, they even swept a conference doubleheader for the first time since April 2017.
And they have Seth.
"It's kind of cool seeing some of the guys I played T-ball with," Cole said. "The big thing with playing baseball is I'm back with guys like Logan; I remember playing T-ball with these guys. Now, we're on the high school team together.
"Time has definitely passed."
There is hope. Second-year Brian Fry, with his calm demeanor and everlasting presence, knows there is a horde of young Alma travel teams who may help the program catch up with other teams over the next few years.
And for now, the roster has the affable Seth Cole.
Thanks, No. 27.