One final season of baseball ends up as a lost chance for Carson Tanner

BUFFS ROUNDUP: Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Note: This is one in a series of profiles about Garden City High School senior student-athletes who missed out on their final semester of playing sports for the Buffaloes.


His final basketball season had just been completed with a sub-state basketball loss the first week of March.

It was planning to be a normal transition into the spring sports and his senior year of playing baseball at Garden City High School.

But things didn’t materialize that way for Carson Tanner, his three senior teammates and the rest of the Buffaloes’ baseball team and other spring sports squads as the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak stopped everything and everyone in their track.

“We had been playing ball together since we were little kids, so the chemistry was there for our team better than ever,” Tanner said in a telephone interview. “We all knew what the others liked, and how we were able to function together as a team. We were all super excited to see how our final year would go and we felt we had a chance to have a great season.”

Tanner and his teammates had been going through preseason workouts since the first week of March, so it was two weeks in and in the middle of spring break that everything came to a halt.

“I remember I was mowing a yard when I first saw the text sent out by KSHSAA (Kansas State High School Activities Association),” Tanner said. “But I don’t think it really ever sunk in until we got the letter from Coach (Justin) Reich that the season was canceled.”

Tanner said he was doing some homework when the final notice from KSHSAA was sent out, and it took some time for the news to sink in.

Carson Tanner (23) takes a throw at first base during a 2019 GCHS game. Tanner would have been playing his senior season for the Buffs if not for the COVID-19 pandemic, canceling all spring sports. (Photo Courtesy Carson Tanner) 

“I still have some stuff at school and at practice to pick up some time,” Tanner said. “I had thought at first there might be a chance to play, but when the basketball tournaments were canceled I knew it probably wouldn’t be good news.”

Tanner, who had played on the Buffaloes’ junior varsity last year, was ticketed to play first base and pitch this season, while also seeing some action at third base, according to Reich.

“He’s a good leader and the younger kids look up to him,” Reich said of Tanner.

Tanner said he was just as disappointed in the fact that his parents would not be able to see him complete his final season in a Buffs’ uniform.

“They come to all of my games and they’ve been super supportive,” he said. “I know how excited they were for my senior year.”

Tanner, in a moment of reflection while also looking ahead, said that this season of lost sports, lost school will be something to be remembered forever.

“We will be talking about this for the rest of our lives,” he said. “This will go down in history, maybe not in a good way, but nobody else has experienced anything like this until now.”

Tanner, who has compiled a 4.0 grade-point-average throughout his high school academic career, said the cancellation of spring sports allowed him to drop nearly all of his necessary high school classes to be eligible for baseball, and thus he now is able to focus solely on his college classes that he is taking online.

“I kept Peer Leadership because I really like spending time with the other kids,” Tanner said of the one high school class he maintained. “We can’t see each other in person, but we’re trying to stay in touch by social media and other technology methods.”

The absence of high school classes and baseball practice/games has provided Tanner an opportunity to work mowing yards and doing other landscape jobs.

“I’m getting some money saved up for college,” he said. “Adjusting to online classes has taken the fun out of school because so much of your experience there is the interaction with your peers and teachers and administrators.”

Tanner has maintained close contact with a few friends through texting, and other social media outlets, but it’s not quite the same, he said.

“There’s no substitution for being in the same place with your friends and teammates,” Tanner said. “It’s just a strange feeling.”

With no in-school classes, Tanner said there has been more time to spend with his family.

“We’re eating dinner together nearly every night,” he said. “I think we’ve done one takeout but all the other meals we’ve cooked at home. We’re finding something new to eat every week. Mom works from home so I’m spending more time with her and fixing things up around the house that usually doesn’t get done this time of year.”

Tanner said the family has had some game nights along with watching more movies on Netflix and YouTube.

“We rarely had dinners together because I wouldn’t get home from practice until around 7 o’clock,” Tanner said, “and we’d have games and other things to do. It’s been such a big change.”

Tanner maintains a level of hope that GCHS will be able to have a “normal” graduation at some point before August when most seniors will head off to college if the pandemic has been diminished to a point where schools will re-open in the fall.

“I’ve worked hard to maintain my grades, so I’ve always wanted to be able to walk across the stage and get my Principal’s Honor Roll diploma from Mr. (Steve) Nordby,” Tanner said. “It doesn’t really matter if nobody’s there. I just want to get it in person from him and not have it come in the mail.”

Tanner said he had had some talks with Nordby about some alternative plans for graduation, but nothing has been finalized.

“There was some talk of having a drive-thru diploma ceremony at the school, but that’s not for sure,” Tanner said. “It sounded kind of fun, but I think all of us would want a traditional graduation if possible. You could look at having a virtual graduation with no fans, no parents. I think having it at the football field, under the lights; we could go all out and still practice social distancing.”

If all works according to plan, Tanner said will head to Manhattan in the fall to attend Kansas State University where he will major in life sciences with a minor in leadership studies. From there, he hopes to move on to Wichita State University where he would study to become a Physician’s Assistant in a two-year program.

“No medical school for me,” he said with a laugh. “I like the tract to become a P.A. and I’ll be around the entire medical field that I want.”

Tanner said he doesn’t dwell too much now on the what ifs of the lost season. It’s just something out of his control.

“The pandemic is a big, serious situation and we’re just all hoping it will be over as soon as possible,” he said. “I can’t get back my baseball season, but there are more important matters to consider.”


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