Peter Cugno is a senior student athlete at Berlin High School. Cugno, like so many others from the Class of 2020, is unable to give a proper farewell to high school athletics because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The native-Berliner will be attending Sacred Heart University where he will major in Sports Management and Business starting next fall, but for now he’s processing through the difficult reality of saying goodbye to his two athletic passions, swimming and baseball.
Here is Peter in his own words, in an essay he wrote for his Sports Literature class on April 10.
“As we all have started converting over to “distanced learning”, I have personally had some struggles focusing on my classes and staying on top of assignments. This class especially. Not because I dread the work. Or because I can’t find the time. But because of that word in the class title. That word “sports” jabs at my side every time I say in my head. I’m in a rough place with sports right now. The outlet I use to deal with stress, anxiety and built up aggression, is now the source that feeds those very things within me. If you’ve played a sport you know it can be a good way to get things off your mind when you’re in a tough place. But here I am, trapped on a couch, behind a computer, with no way to escape from the chaos which is this world right now. This is the case for everyone though. My situation is no different than any other teenage athlete at the moment. So I’m sure that any one of them could tell you their story about the sport that they’re missing, just as I am about to do.
Passion. It’s a simple word, with a meaning that I struggle to fully understand to this day. The dictionary describes it as, “a strong and barely controllable emotion”. And through my experiences, that’s exactly what it is. But let’s break down this emotion. To me, it means that every time you step on that field, you don’t want to step off of it until you’ve accomplished something. It means that you spend those Friday nights in the gym putting in that extra work instead of going to that party with the rest of your grade. It means you settle for nothing but the best from yourself. It means daydreaming of your success on that field as a child. It means setting goals and persevering through every damn thing that stands in your way until you succeed. It means on a daily basis giving absolutely everything you have to the thing that you feel this emotion for. This emotion is what I feel for my sports. Baseball and Swimming. I was always told by coaches that I had a unique passion to perform athletically. I never knew what that meant until my senior year. Because see, as a kid, I developed this, what seemed innocent, feeling of passion for baseball and swimming. Playing hard and working hard when no one was watching. It was easy for me to get away from everyone and just concentrate 100% on succeeding. This approach has done pretty well for me until now. It got me to States every year that I swam. It got me All-Conference twice. It led me to play baseball around the country. I worked hard to meet my goals and that made me proud of what I accomplished. For each sport I had one major goal. It was the point in each sport where I could call it quits on my grind and just look back on everything I had done. My goal for swimming was always to go a 1:06.99 or faster in the breaststroke for swimming. My goal for baseball was to be a Berlin Redcoat Varsity Baseball player. Now, I bring up that “innocent” emotion called passion. Because as I felt this passion, it pushed me to work harder and harder to meet my ultimate goals. But working too hard inevitably worked against me. I hurt my knee while swimming as a freshman and that same injury caused me to miss time in three straight swimming seasons, including my entire junior season. It also resulted in me missing time from baseball that influenced my varsity spot as a junior. I pushed past the obstacles in an attempt to achieve my goals with a great senior year. The final stand. The Grand Finale. Except it isn’t for the 2020 seniors.
I grinded all winter, in and out of the pool so that I could get back to States and claim this season as my comeback season. I dieted, hit the gym after weeknight practices, I woke up at 5:30 in the morning on weekends and throughout all of Winter Breaks. I made these sacrifices to reach for my goals. I missed no time due to injury and did qualify for States again. But I never got to perform at States. I was unexpectedly stripped of that opportunity last minute. Just like that swimming was over. I didn’t get to say goodbye to the sport that I was oh-so passionate about. I didn’t even know my last race was going to be my last race. My time for that race was 1:07.4. I only needed to drop .5 seconds at the States meet to accomplish my ultimate goal, but I never got to swim that race. I never will. I’ll never get to know if all of my years of work was worth it.
Days after hearing that there would be no States, they closed all the schools. No one knows when or if we’ll go back to school this year. So I take that information and try to process that it means there won’t be any spring sports this year. For the senior baseball, softball, lacrosse, golf and tennis players, that is a really hard pill to swallow. I don’t get the closure I need and deserve from the sport of baseball after all that I’ve given to it. Everyday since I first picked up a baseball, I’ve thought about the game. No matter what time of year it is, I’m thinking about baseball. All the time and work I have put into that sport has allowed me to travel places, meet people and experience amazing things. I’ve developed a close relationship, not just with teammates and coaches, but with the game of baseball. It’s the first thing I bonded over with my dad. It was what taught me how to be a good man. It’s what led me to my childhood best friends. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to say goodbye to baseball. But I didn’t think this is how it would happen. You see, when injuries struck during my sophomore year, the coaches thought it would be best to get my playing time in on JV during my Junior year in order to make up for the missed time. This led to me playing on JV for my first three years of high school. With this spring season cancelled, it means I never got to play varsity baseball. This is where my passion backfired on me.
So much of my life was dedicated to meeting these goals I set for myself, and I never got the opportunity to achieve them. It breaks my heart to think about. The baseball field has always been my home and now I’m lost that I can’t be on it. I can’t solve this problem by taking 100 ground balls or throwing 80 pitches. There is nowhere for me to escape to.
Now, it’s 4:15 in the morning, I’m sitting in the bleachers at Sage Park, looking over the field that I never got to play on, reflecting on the sports in my life. As much as the universe is forcing me it’s time to say goodbye to baseball, it doesn’t seem right, or real for that matter. I guess it’s because it’s hard to imagine myself without the sport that molded me into the person I am today. I feel lost without getting my chance to say a proper goodbye to my home on that baseball field.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin