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Senior Perspective: Matt Thomas

Despite having my last two seasons cancelled, somehow this group of guys still made me feel lucky. The Harvard Baseball team has always been more about the team than the baseball.

Matt Thomas ’21 launches a drive into left field against rival Yale in an April 2019 meeting.
Matt Thomas ’21 launches a drive into left field against rival Yale in an April 2019 meeting. By Brendan J. Chapuis
By Matt Thomas, Contributing Writer

It’s a strange thing to have the last 75 games of your collegiate career cancelled. In fact, during my four years, I only played in one-third as many. The Harvard Baseball Team has been such a core part of my identity in college, so I struggled to find direction and purpose when it was taken away. What did it mean to be a Harvard baseball player if we didn’t play any games?

Nevertheless, all semester my teammates and I hoped this spring would be different than 2020’s. I didn’t have to face this existential question so long as my teammates and I hung on to the slim chance that we could play games against local teams before finals. We abided by every COVID precaution to make this happen: we stayed six feet apart at practices, we inhaled sweaty masks during workouts, and we submitted COVID tests more often than we saw our friends. I even tried to find some humor in it, as I joked with my coach that my position as a catcher was well suited for a pandemic since the position already demanded I wear a mask.

But on April 1, our Coach officially cancelled our season.

Again.

And he clarified that it wasn’t an April Fools joke.

Late that night I took a long and winding walk along the Charles, and I realized I had to face the question again. The blinking lights along the Boston skyline felt like hazard lights for the funeral procession of my baseball career. Without even meaning to, my steps took me to the baseball field, drawn by its magnetic pull. In a fitting metaphor, its black, chain-link gates were locked. Even more fittingly, I stepped over the barricade to sit in the dugout buried in my thoughts.

With my apologies to Tom Hanks and “A League of Their Own,” that day there was crying in baseball. I called my parents, teammates, and coaches to thank them and reflect on what baseball has meant to me. And in that moment, I found clarity on what it meant to be a Harvard Baseball player.

What makes Harvard Baseball special for me is not the games we play. Rather, it's the people I get to play them with. This semester we practiced five days per week, four of which were at 7 a.m. and entailed trekking across the river in snow, wind, and freezing rain before sunrise. During our two workouts each week, my younger teammates consistently bested me at every speed and conditioning drill to remind me how washed up I am. At night, I stayed up late to write my 30,000-word senior thesis on (what else?) Minor League Baseball.

And it was perfect.

Since we couldn’t show up for one another on the field, we supported each other off of it. 10 of my groggy-eyed teammates and I logged onto an 8:30 a.m. Zoom to watch one of our first-year’s final presentations for a class. All 12 teammates who were on campus joined a Saturday night Zoom to see the COVID-safety protocols presentation that two of our teammates created. And 20 of my teammates joined a call to see my 15-minute presentation and Q&A about my thesis. As team captain, I was proud to see this camaraderie during such a difficult semester.

I never thought I would be proud to finish my career as a Harvard Baseball player who lost more games to COVID than I did to my opponents, but I guess some things are more important than the scoreboard. Despite having my last two seasons cancelled, somehow this group of guys still made me feel lucky. The Harvard Baseball team has always been more about the team than the baseball. I will always be grateful to have had this time playing the sport I loved with guys I loved even more.

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BaseballSports FeaturesCommencement 2021