OSWEGO—“The team was devastated and heartbroken,” senior baseball player, Casey Gruarin said. “Everyone ultimately understood that the season had to be cancelled, but everyone was still heartbroken by the news.”
The announcement came back on March 12th. SUNY Oswego had cancelled all spring sports due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Of the spring sports cancelled was baseball.
For Casey Gruarin along with 12 other seniors their baseball career was over. Finishing their season only 9 games in with a record of 6-3.
“We had something really special going on this year before the season was cancelled,” Gruarin said.
The Oswego State Lakers were coming off their third SUNYAC Championship in a row. Poised to repeat their success in the SUNYAC their season is no more.
“This year’s team had a great chance to win the SUNYAC for the 4th season in a row,”Gruarin said. “Personally, I think this year’s team had a shot to go to the World Series and even win a National Championship”.
Baseball had always been a major part of Gruarin’s life. He had been playing the sport since he could walk.
“Baseball has always been more than just a game to me and my family,” Gruarin said. “Playing in college was always an aspiration of mine.”
From losing a NJCAA World Series to winning the Region III Baseball tournament MVP Gruarin’s path to joining the Lakers’ program was not easy.
Gruarin grew up in Niagara Falls, N.Y. where he attended Niagara-Wheatfield High school. In his senior year he led the team in home runs and hits.
After the season Gruarin did not have any offers to play college baseball. Ultimately he chose to play junior college at Niagara County Community College.
In his tenure with the ThunderWolves baseball team Gruarin was a part of 87 wins, while only losing 17 times with the program.
Of those 17 losses was an NJCAA World Series Game, in which Casey Gruarin had started. It was the second time Niagara County Community College had ever made it to the World Series. The first time being in 2012.
In 91 career games with the Thunderwolves Casey Gruarin recorded 90 hits, 61 RBIs, and 4 home runs.
Due in part by his high level of play Gruarin began being recruited by many different schools before choosing to spend his final two seasons of eligibility at SUNY Oswego.
Gruarin had appeared in 43 games and he started in 31 of them. Tallying 28 hits, 22 runs, 18 RBI and 11 stolen bases in his short career at Oswego.
Along with building a great relationship with both his teammates and coaches, Gruarin claimed that winning a SUNYAC Title game against SUNY Cortland and being able to play in the NCAA Regional Tournament were two of his best memories with the Lakers.
“Coach Landers is an amazing coach and person who I will never forget,” Gruarin said. “I couldn’t be happier that I chose to come to SUNY Oswego and play baseball here”.
Gruarin excellence on the field has also translated to the classroom as he was named to the 2018-19 SUNYAC Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll.
“Casey is the epitome of what every coach wants in a student athlete,” head coach Scott Landers said. “He is an extremely hard worker and tremendous role model for his teammates and our institution”.
Even with his hard work in both the classroom and on the baseball field, Gruarin’s career was over and the news had not come as a shock.
With social media the news helped soften the blow as Gruarin and the rest of the SUNY Oswego team had an idea that the season would likely be cancelled.
“When it became official it was sad, but I had to understand that this pandemic is much bigger than college athletics,’ Gruarin said. “Taking all measures and safety precautions necessary was more important to me than risking getting the virus by still playing the season”.
For most of the world the pandemic has drastically changed our lives. For Casey Gruarin baseball was his passion, but he understood the news and why society had to take serious precautions.
The SUNY Oswego baseball team had a very promising season ahead of them and Gruarin was expected to have a big season. He had only played in 8 games this season, as he even started in 4 of them.
“My expectations for this group were very high and it was an extremely unfortunate term of events,” said Landers. “My heart breaks for the athletes who worked hard to prepare but more importantly the seniors who aren’t coming back to have their last year of competition cut short.”
In March the NCAA announced that they would allow Division III athletes whose season’s were cut short to be granted another year of eligibility. The schools now have the ability to allow their students athletes to come back.
The University of Wisconsin was the first to announce that they would not bring back their spring athletes for another year. SUNY Oswego has close to that same power with their athletic department.
While Casey Gruarin is set to graduate with a degree in Business administration this year. He likely will not come back to the Laker program even if the school allows for another year of eligibility for their spring athletes.
“I am ready to be done with school. I am ready to leave athletics behind, enter the real world and get my adult life started,” Gruarin said.
Casey Gruarin was one of many spring athletes who lost their senior season due to coronavirus but as we move forward as a country. He will always remember his time with the Lakers’ program.
“College athletics gives us athletes a purpose and stripping that away was extremely sad” Gruarin said.