It’s been a difficult three years for seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Ever since the tragedy of February 14th, 2018, the kids who were freshmen at the time have not had a single normal day of high school. Just as they were regaining a semblance of normalcy on the grief-stricken campus, the pandemic came along to disrupt everything again.
Now they finally have something to feel good about in Parkland, after the MSD High School Eagles won the state baseball championship on Saturday, beating Spruce Creek High School, 5 to 1.
"This championship has been great, for the team, the community, baseball has helped us get our minds off of everything that happened that day,” said Aidan Minott, a senior outfielder.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
“It really shows that we could overcome tragedy and rise above whatever happens,” said senior pitcher Connor Hagen.
Everyone knows what happened at their school three years ago. Six seniors on the team went through it all. they’ve known nothing but emotional trauma, from the massacre of classmates and faculty to the pandemic.
Now they wear a label other than survivor. They are champions.
“We really didn’t allow each other to feel sorry for ourselves, you know life goes on, right, and we have to move on,” said head coach Todd Fitz-Gerald, who has been at MSD as a teacher and coach for 10 years.
A state championship has a way of shining a bright light of joy onto a place that has experienced far too much darkness, and for the seniors on the team, the sport itself has been like therapy.
“And after it happened I just wanted to get back on the field and keep my mind off it, and that’s what baseball did,” said Aiden Williams, a senior pitcher.
“Yes, a hundred percent,” said senior first baseman Chris McKenna in agreement. “I wanted to be on the baseball field that day.”
Chris actually ran into the shooter in the stairwell just before the carnage began, as he was loading his rifle.
"10 seconds later I would be gone right now, I wouldn’t be here,” Chris said in 2018, the day after the massacre.
“After that, all I thought about was baseball, that’s what keeps my mind off what really happened, playing baseball,” Chris said Monday, speaking in the dugout of the team’s field on campus.
This championship, they say, was to honor the 17 who died and for Parkland itself. The kids are paying everyone back for their support.
“Just to be able to do something for the community and the school and make somebody smile, even if it’s for 10 minutes,” is important, said Fitz-Gerald.
“We’re really close after that event and we’ve bonded over that and coming out here every day, playing baseball, it’s truly helped me heal and we always had that goal of going out with a victory and that’s what we did,” Connor Hagen said.
The combined line score of the championship game, which means runs, hits, and errors, added up to 17.
MSD strong, indeed.