For many senior athletes, their athletic careers are over. Seniors playing spring sports had their final seasons at St. Louis U. High unforgivingly ripped away from them by Covid-19. Although the world has seemed to stop spinning for now, SLUH’s future collegiate athletes still have work to do to prepare for their first seasons in the NCAA. For baseball players and other spring sport athletes, this unprecedented time in history comes with a new set of challenges due to the loss of a full season—their culminating season to prepare for the next level.
Seniors Tony Lindwedel and Ben Kennebeck both have committed to collegiate baseball programs. Lindwedel, who will be playing at The University of Notre Dame, and Kennebeck, who will be playing at McKendree University, both have an unusual path to prepare for next spring.
“All I can do right now is try to stay in shape,” said Kennebeck. “I’m doing at home workouts from a program sent to me by my trainer at the gym that I go to. I’m running and doing a few other things on my own.”
Kennebeck is a starting pitcher heading into a Division II program at McKendree University.
“I don’t know anyone that has played or really anyone from the incoming class so I’m not sure what it will be like playing there, but I know there will be a lot of guys in the program which is some good competition for my first year,” said Kennebeck.
Lindwedel is a catcher who will be starting in a Division I program at The University of Notre Dame, which was ranked 31st among all Division I programs when the season was suspended due to Covid-19.
“I know it’s gonna be a big challenge and I knew that it would be wherever I was going to go,” said Lindwedel. “I know I have to work hard regardless of this going on. I know I have to win that spot because if you're working hard there is someone that is working just as hard that wants the same spot as you.”
Lindwedel is doing various workouts and catching sessions to prepare for next season. He is also working out with some current MLB players.
“At my house, I just have a bunch of dumbbells and various bands and stuff that I have been doing a lot of shoulder, legs work with. I have been hitting off of a tee into my net. It's hard to get game experience though hitting because there are no pitchers. I have been meeting up and hitting off of a few of my friends who have been throwing live,” said Lindwedel. “I have also been catching for (former MLB pitcher) Trevor Rosenthal and Jake Brents, who both throw 97-101. They will text me three or four times a week to go catch for them at Vianney or Chaminade.”
For baseball, the NCAA has ruled that spring athletes have been granted an extra year of eligibility. This means that every player currently in the NCAA will have the opportunity to play for a fifth season. For Kennebeck, this does not present any extra competition because most players are unlikely to stay in college for a fifth year to play for a Division II program. For Lindwedel, though, this presents more competition because Notre Dame is a highly touted program and players have a higher chance of moving on to the MLB draft or to a minor league contract. Collegiate roster sizes are also going to be expanded.
“Our class is going to feel the effects of it the worst, but it’s going to somewhat affect everyone for the next four years, even eighth graders now,” said Lindwedel. “It won’t be too bad though, because if you’re going to make it and make money playing baseball, you will have been drafted by your junior year or out of high school. There is no one in my spot who will be leaving anyways who is now staying so nothing changes for me specifically.”
The summer club seasons for both Lindwedel and Kennebeck are both up in the air still, but they both are looking forward to the next time that they take the field.
“It’s hard not being able to be on the field grinding, taking ground balls and throwing sessions, but I know once I’m out there I’ll be ready,” said Kennebeck.