Since he was short enough to look up at the knob of a baseball bat, Reese Fetherston has been hanging around the dugout.
This spring is the first in 14 years that Fetherston, a Jefferson High senior, won’t be participating in an Eagles baseball season after the WIAA Board of Control voted to cancel spring sports for 2020 last Tuesday to adhere to Gov. Tony Evers safer-at-home order.
For six weeks, Fetherston knew this was coming.
“It was sad and heartbreaking,” Fetherston said. “I’ve been in this program for 14 years. It’s going to suck with the big senior class we had.”
Jefferson was set to have eight seniors in a class mostly coached by Greg Fetherston, Reese’s father, since they were in fourth grade. Reese Fetherston is the only player on the team that was there when the team finished as runner-up in the WIAA Division 2 state tournament in 2018. He was in the dugout as a bat boy when Jefferson won the 2014 state championship.
“Being a coach’s kid, it was natural for him to be around,” Greg Fetherston said. “The bats were just as big as him back in the day. The 2014 team, they really took to him and he still talks about them. They were a big influence on his life. …
“He was the little skinny kid and now he’s the tall skinny kid, so I guess some things don’t really change. He loves the game and loves his teammates. It breaks my heart that he can’t play baseball. He’s a three-sport athlete who knows his role in his other sports. Baseball is his sport, and he wanted to go out strong.”
Two of the players from the 2014 championship group—Heath Renz and Nick Schrader—ended up at UW-Whitewater, where Reese Fetherston and Jefferson classmate Jared Vogel are trying out for the baseball team next fall.
Schrader remembers when Reese began taking batting practice with the Eagles.
“I remember him being 12, and it’s kind of the age when you transition from the shorter bases to the full field,” said Schrader, who initially played for NCAA Division I Western Illinois before transferring to UW-Whitewater for his last two seasons of eligibility. “As a 12-year-old, it can be discouraging because you’re hitting balls that are barely getting out of the infield. I think that’s something every kid struggles with.
“He wasn’t worried about the guys giving him a little crap about it; he was out there making the most of his reps at the end of practices.”
Now once again the Fetherstons are looking to make the most out of a tough situation.
Greg Fetherston did not need to look far to find a positive. He said the family—his daughter Parker is a women’s basketball player at Edgewood College—is able to focus on eating healthy and continuing to get stronger for the eventual return of competitive sports.
That played directly into the best advice and comfort Reese has been given during the pandemic.
“Mr. (Aaron) Erickson (who was recently hired as assistant principal at Jefferson Middle School) told me, ‘You can either get better or get worse. You can either sit and pout or you can get up and move on,’” Reese said. “That’s not what I wanted to hear, but I think that’s a good way to think about it.”
Unfortunately for athletes in a similar predicament as Reese, those positives don’t make up for the loss of an entire season. So much of his life has been leading up to his senior year of baseball. One of his friends and basketball teammates, Caleb Stelse, said he was worried about him, but “he’s a tough kid; he’ll get through it.”
Added Reese, “When I still had hope for baseball and they hadn’t fully canceled, I was taking every precautionary measure. I was making sure guys were staying home because the quicker we do that, the quicker we can get back to doing the things we like, and for me that’s playing baseball.”