Seniors Rudy Schultz and Christian McAlexander went through highs and lows playing for the Rudder baseball team the last four seasons. The coronavirus pandemic stripped them of their chance for an ultimate high — helping the Rangers return to the playoffs — but the duo at least got a consolation prize.
Rudder’s 2020 season wrapped up Thursday with a drive-thru Senior Night celebration to honor the team’s two-member senior class.
“This tells you how close of a group of guys they are,” Rudder head coach Chase Sanford said. “We had a better turnout than I even thought we would have. As bad as it hurts, when the UIL finally made the decision to end [the season April 17], it kind of let us have some closure. This right here is a perfect way to close the book on these guys’ careers.”
Vehicles full of teammates, family, friends, teachers and fans pulled through the Rudder parking lot for roughly 20 minutes, many honking their appreciation for the two-member senior class. For Schultz and McAlexander, it was a sign of the tight-knit family of both the team and school.
“You look up and see all these cars that are already lined up and it’s still 10 minutes until the start,” Schultz said. “It makes me and my family emotional a little bit because this is it. This is the last hurrah.”
Added McAlexander: “It lets me know the community has my back and not just me but the class of 2020. It lets us know the community is behind us and we’re loved. I really appreciate that.”
Sanford said holding the ceremony was the least the team and community could do for the pair of student-athletes who meant so much to the program.
Schultz, a three-year starting catcher, and McAlexander, a utility infielder, were part of the 2018 squad that challenged College Station for the District 18-5A crown and reached the playoffs for the fourth straight season. They also experienced the downs of last year’s rebuilding season and, according to Sanford, were instrumental in bringing a large group of underclassmen along and helping them through the growing pains of varsity baseball.
Sanford and his seniors felt they were primed for a bounce back year when play was initially suspended March 12 just before District 19-5A play. The Rangers’ efforts against several Class 6A teams earlier in the season were encouraging.
“What really hurts is they should have been a part of us being able to rise back,” Sanford said. “That’s what hurts is all the sweat equity that these guys put in and they didn’t get a chance to finish it out.”
But both Schultz and McAlexander are determined not to let this be the end of their baseball journeys and are still weighing their college options to make that dream a reality. While they figure out their next steps, they plan on playing summer baseball — Schultz with the Brazos Valley Renegades and McAlexander with Pride Baseball — if those seasons aren’t postponed or canceled.
“Schultz broke his teeth [catching Texas Tech pitcher] Hunter Dobbins and Tanner Treat, so he was able to be a mentor to our younger pitchers,” Sanford said. “And McAlexander is the ultimate team player. In his high school career, I think he’s played every position in the field except catcher. They work extremely hard, and they don’t quit. It’d be nice if they got the chance to play in college.”