When the 2020 baseball season began for Millennium, optimism was high among the team. They were coming off of a successful 2019 season and had their sights set on continuing the momentum.
They started off hot, winning their first four games by a combined score of 25-11.
Everything was going to plan for the Tigers, until it wasn’t. That fourth game was the last that the team would play, with COVID-19 turning a once promising season into a casualty.
The effects of that cancellation still linger in 2021, as the team enters this upcoming season with relatively less experience than in past years.
“We have guys who are moving into starting spots who only played two games last year,” said Millennium head coach Matt Royal. “We got kids who only got five at-bats or logged an inning, and now we’re expecting them to turn around and throw 40 innings for us. So, that’s kind of been the biggest challenge for us, the experience and making sure that guys are ready to go despite the lack of reps they got last year.”
With the level of uncertainty that everybody is facing on and off the field, Royal has placed a renewed focus on controlling what can be controlled.
“We can’t control anything in terms of decisions that are made or how COVID plays out,” Royal said.
“But, we can control us getting better and us putting in the work on the field. Even if this season did get shut down, we’re still going to have guys that are going to get college opportunities. We want them to be prepared and represent Millennium to the high standard that we expect. We just try to stay positive and try to focus on us, focus on what we can do, and that’s kind of been our thing. Whatever happens this year, we’re going to have a lot of control.”
Kaleb Duncan, a third-year varsity player and class of 2022 commit to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is at the forefront of that preparation.
“I learned from a lot of older guys who have been here before me,” Kaleb said. “All of them taught me so much. Being a good teammate, being able to lead the younger kids, and now it’s my time to step into that leadership role and do what they did for me. … We’re trying to gel as a team as much as we can. Our saying is ‘How? Together.’ We’re going to do it together. Nobody can do it by themselves. We’re going to focus on playing as a team. That’s how we work around here.”
Kaleb also has a lofty personal aspiration that he’s aiming to fulfill this season — 5A Player of the Year.
“I’m trying to be the best in almost every statistic,” Kaleb said.
“I’m going to try to do what I can to help us win a state championship. Definitely a personal goal of mine is to be the best player in 5A.”
The Millennium Tigers’ home opener is slated for Tuesday, March 23, when they host the Campo Verde Coyotes.