The past year was a strange one for the sports world. No one could have anticipated the global pandemic that would force entire seasons to be canceled and would impact sports on every level, from Little League to the Major Leagues.
Locally, the biggest loss was the spring sports season, where athletes were unable to take the field, many losing their final chance to compete in the games they love.
There was much to be disappointed about, but there was also a lot to celebrate.
Looking back, for me the year produced its share of memorable moments.
Back in February, St. Joseph’s basketball team snapped a 23-game losing streak to rival Wildwood Catholic, winning a thrilling game in the Wildcats’ tiny gymnasium.
The victory capped year’s of hard work by St. Joe head coach Paul Rodio and his staff who have developed the Wildcats into one of the top programs in the Cape Atlantic League.
While the spring season was halted, the Hammonton Hot Shots of the Atlantic County Baseball League were able to create a lasting memory for a few high school seniors when they hosted Hammonton High School’s baseball team in an exhibition game at Hammonton Lake Park in July.
The game was well-attended, and Hot Shots manager Sam Rodio Jr. and his team were able to give the Blue Devils’ seniors at least one chance to play together on the field.
Fall sports teams had to sweat through a summer where there was much speculation as to whether or not they would be allowed to play.
In the end, teams were able to get back on the field, although the season was shortened and impacted nearly every day by the novel cornoavirus (COVID-19).
One of the best moments of the year came in mid-November, when Hammonton and St. Joseph were able to renew their rivalry on the football field.
St. Joe was able to pull out a 13-0 win, and the game sparked interest both in town and around the region as many began arguing that it should once again become a staple on the schedule each year.
Maybe the one thing I noticed most about a trying year for everyone involved in sports was that they all worked hard to make sporting events happen.
All too often I hear people say, “It’s for the kids.” In 2020, that statement rang true.
Administrators, coaches, parents and fans all worked together to give young athletes the opportunity to play. Some may argue that during the pandemic, sports are meaningless. The truth is they do matter, and we were all able to make them happen in 2020.
Dan Russoman is the sports editor of The Gazette. Watch him on “Gazette Sports Week” every Wednesday afternoon at www.hammontongazette.com. Follow Russoman on Twitter @DanRussoman.