Back in the bleachers once again

A reflection on 2021 Trinity athletics from the perspective of a fan


Trinity Athletics

Mid-fielder Cassie Bowers weaves through defensive efforts.

Sometimes you don’t realize how good you have it until something is taken away from you.

This past spring, in one of my first pieces for the Trinitonian, I covered a storied baseball program that was aided substantially by a number of transfer players from a multitude of universities. For it, I had the opportunity to speak with Rafe Chaumette, at the time in his fifth year in the program and one of the most well-respected players in the locker room.

He was warm and immensely helpful in my completion of that article, but as we talked, we trailed off to a new topic, and he took me back almost a full year earlier to the moment when the pandemic derailed the 2020 season.

Aware that he spent too much time on his phone, Chaumette viewed it as a distraction on game days. It wasn’t part of his pregame routine. It was tucked away to allow him to focus on the task at hand. What was standard for him was an early arrival to the locker room, and on March 11, 2020, he was the first player there. Alone, he waited for his teammates to trickle in slowly, but they didn’t come, at least not at the rate he was accustomed to. He grew concerned until finally, another senior joined him.

It was Michael Goodrich, but his arrival didn’t quell any concerns. Instead, as Chaumette recalled, upon seeing his teammate, it was confirmed to him that something was wrong. Goodrich broke the news: the coronavirus would bring all activities to a full stop. Their season would be canceled.

There was a whirlwind of emotions that would follow. Chaumette recounted all of them, and I could feel the weight of that moment he had shared with his teammate, who over their time together had grown and become so much more.
Would they ever play a baseball game together again?

2021 answered that question for them. It gave them baseball back, and it’s given a great deal to the rest of us, as well, but the return of sports at Trinity wasn’t just for the athletes. It’s been a bright spot for me and many others, as fans, giving us something to cheer for.

Last spring, every team competed, whether it was a condensed season that had been delayed from the fall and winter or a full-length one with the normal end goal of a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship.

Even though events were closed to fans, Tiger Network broadcasts allowed us to tune in from our couches. The work of Joshua Moczygemba, the Sports Marketing Coordinator and co-Producer of Tiger Network, and countless student assistants was a luxury that wasn’t afforded to many at this level of competition. The broadcasts are some of the best that can be found across all Division III institutions, but it wasn’t until this fall that it became entirely clear what had been missing, what had been taken away from my experience as a fan.

The first event that I was back in the stands for was a volleyball match against Our Lady of the Lake University. The amazing thing about that night was the fact that it was a game that wasn’t even played. Health and safety protocols forced the cancellation of the match while both teams were on the floor during warmups.

However, Trinity remained on the floor and played a one-set, intrasquad scrimmage. For those in attendance, it was more like a championship game. A packed student section, which filled, emptied, and refilled after the start time was delayed, was led by football players who show out consistently in support of other teams.

It served as a reminder that sports give us something to cheer for but further, that they bring us together. Literally.

This semester progressed, and I got the opportunity to see other teams in action as well. The atmospheres were consistently invigorating, whether they were in Calgaard Gym, at Paul McGinlay Field or in the recently renovated Trinity Stadium.

It’s been a unique experience, being a fan at Trinity, but it’s one that’s been more meaningful to me than many other allegiances that I’ve held in the past. I think what it comes down to is the pride that I take, and I encourage others to carry as well, in knowing the athletes on a personal level.

No, there might not be 100,000 fans packed into our stadium on any given Saturday, and perhaps we won’t have anyone continue their careers at the highest level once they finish here, but to do more than see student-athletes in passing, rather to sit with them in class, to work and learn alongside them and most importantly to become their friends — these things mean more to me.