As the days slowly turned and the calendar marched on, the sun began to shine a little more each day. For spring athletes in Upstate NY, this is much like Groundhog Day. Before every season, every spring athlete knows Mother Nature must cooperate for them to have an ideal season.
It was around that time. Preparation for the season ahead was already in full swing and many senior athletes looked to put a final stamp on their illustrious career at SUNY Oswego.
March 13th, 2020 was the day many hearts broke across the entirety of New York State. During a time filled with fear and utter confusion, the SUNY system decided to cancel the spring season for all of its’ Division-III teams, including the baseball team. This left many in shock. Athletes who have been looking forward to this season for years, now have nothing. One particular senior athlete has seen the road to his senior season take a lot of twist and turns, with some obstacles along the way.
“My entire baseball career flashed before my eyes, and then I immediately started to tear up. I was hanging with a couple guys from the team when one of us saw the news on Twitter. The room was awkwardly silent, and I don’t think any of us understood what it meant at the time. I’ll never forget where I was.”
Nick Chilson was entering his 5th year of eligibility at Oswego State. The road he took to get to Oswego, was one that was much less traveled. Chilson began his freshman year at Mercy College. Here, he played in 40 games and finished with a .237 batting average. After only one year at Mercy, Chilson decided to continue his academic and athletic career at SUNY Oswego. When asked why he transferred from Mercy to Oswego, Chilson simply stated he wanted to be a winner “I transferred from Mercy to Oswego because the program wasn’t very strong, and I didn’t like losing. I knew Oswego’s program was great, and only getting better with Coach Landers. That, coupled with a close proximity to home and great business program, I couldn’t say no”. Chilson saw limited time in his inaugural 2018 season with the Lakers, appearing in 15 games while notching his first hit and RBI in an Oswego uniform.
Chilson’s 2019 campaign was nothing short of spectacular, but the journey was an improbable one. With only a week left in a Fall baseball league, Chilson tore the LCL in his knee and hamstring which required surgery. The timetable given to him was 9 months, which automatically ruled out his 2019 season. Chilson said the news sent a numb feeling down his spine “Once I processed that a 9 month timetable means my junior season was washed, I was broken to say the least. I was hit with a whirlwind of emotions and I began to question if this was all worth it.”. After time passed and the rehab process began, Chilson says a newfound motivation came about him “I almost felt a sense of anger. Once the rehab process began, I was just so focused on getting back on the field. I wasn’t letting this injury take a season away from me.” The work ethic Chilson brought to rehab day in and day out led to his speedy recovery, getting cleared only 2 weeks into the season. All the hard work and dedication put forth was rewarded with a statement of a junior season by Nick.
After seeing action in 32 games, and starting in 22 of them, Chilson finished with a .337 batting average and .379 on-base percentage. This landed him 7th on the team in hits and 5th in runs batted in. The Laker’s collective effort in 2019 ultimately landed them a 29-14 record and a SUNYAC Championship over rival Cortland State. The defining moment of Chilson’s Oswego career came in the SUNYAC Championship game. With 2 outs in the 9th inning, tensions were running high in the Oswego dugout. Bringing the SUNYAC Championship Trophy back to Oswego was 1 out away. The ball was lifted into shallow left field, where Chilson was positioned. After taking a few steps in and calling off the shortstop, Chilson made the catch and a dog pile ensued “Without a doubt, the catch to win it all will be my favorite memory. For a split second, I remembered the adversity I faced with my knee and transferring, and this made it all worth it. Even with my career being cut short, I’m glad I was able to have a memory like this one”.
The journey for Nick Chilson and his aspirations in baseball began in a small town in upstate NY by the name of Johnson City. The proximity and constant connection to home was important to Nick and played a vital role in his decision to transfer to Oswego. Former youth baseball coach Vince Trayling touched on what it was like coaching a younger Nick, “I remember Chilly showed leadership qualities from his first practice as a 9 year old. He was always oddly attentive during practice, which was odd for his age because I could never get them to focus!”. Nick grew older and after making his way through the youth baseball program, he made his way onto Johnson City’s varsity squad. Longtime friend and teammate of Chilson, Corey Barton, says Nick was the first person he thought about when the news was broke “After seeing all SUNYAC spring sports were cancelled for this year, I immediately thought of Nick. My heart goes out to that kid. I’ve watched him put in countless hours off the field to perfect his craft, and even rehab from his injury. If any senior deserved one last shot, it would be him”. Chilson said the thing he would miss most about Oswego baseball is the guys he had the chance to play with “As you know, sports have been known to create bonds that last a lifetime. I felt welcomed here after my first practice and that’s how I knew Oswego was the place for me. I’m going to miss hanging out with my teammates and chasing that SUNYAC Championship “.
COViD-19 has made its presence known throughout the world and it has effected people of all walks of life
. The special group of senior athletes at SUNY Oswego were robbed of the most memorable season of their lives. Nick Chilson, among many others, dedicated his life to playing the sport he loved while also pursing his degree at SUNY Oswego. After battling against the odds for most of his career and lighting up the field during his junior year, Chilson was poised for another standout season for the Lakers in 2020.