LESTER PRAIRIE – For Lester Prairie senior Alex Heimerl, having his senior baseball season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant many things.
It meant his high school athletic career was over. It meant he wouldn’t get the chance to be the leader on the baseball team this spring. It meant he wouldn’t get the chance to prove he could play at the college level.
Senior year is a special time for any athlete. After improving every year, Heimerl was looking forward to taking another step forward for the Bulldogs in his final season.
“As a player, I definitely would have taken this season as my last chance to prove to people that I am a very good ballplayer, and hopefully, earn a chance to play at the next level,” Heimerl said.
While taking the next step as a player was a goal for him in the season that never existed, taking a step forward as a team and a leader was also on his mind.
“I think the biggest thing I was looking forward to this season was hitting that reset button,” Heimerl said. “We have struggled as a team for a few years, but I feel like this year with getting a new coach and just a different kind of energy and atmosphere, I was looking forward to seeing how we, as a somewhat young team, would react to change like that and possibly be able to make a run when it came playoff time.”
Ben Machemehl was set to take over the program in his first season this spring. Although he hasn’t coached Heimerl in baseball at all, he knew the impact his lone senior would have had on this year’s team.
“Alex would have been a four-year starter,” Machemehl said. “The team’s win-loss record has gotten better every year he has been playing. He has pitched the most out of anyone from those years.”
Being the lone senior on this year’s roster was a new feeling for Heimerl. Although it would have been tough, he was looking forward to being the leader for the Bulldogs.
“Being the only senior did give me some butterflies in my stomach, knowing that I wasn’t a part of a group of seniors that underclassmen looked up to,” Heimerl said. “I was the only one. I also knew I had many great things to contribute to the younger kids when it came to fundamentals, so I would have been able to help them not only understand playing the game, but also the preparation that came with it.”
While Heimerl’s senior season never came to fruition, the memories did. Throughout his varsity career, there have been many special moments and teams he has participated in.
“My favorite memories from over the years of playing baseball are easily the times I got to play with my older brother (Jacob),” Heimerl said. “I was in eighth grade, and then getting to play two seasons with my younger brother (Riley). It’s a special feeling getting to play sports with two people that are most important to me and have always been there for me. I am very fortunate to have had those opportunities, and I am grateful for my every moment played with my two brothers.”
While the memories will remain with Heimerl throughout his life, not getting that senior season is still tough. Through it all, he wants to make sure these tough times make him stronger going forward.
“Not being able to play my senior year hurts deeply right now, but in the long run, I feel that it will teach me many lessons when it comes to appreciating the many things we are lucky to have here,” Heimerl said. “It shows you how truly special high school sports are and that you should not take any moment for granted.”
Heimerl was a three-sport (football, basketball, baseball) athlete at Lester Prairie High School. In the day and age where three-sport athletes are becoming more and more rare, Heimerl saw the benefits of playing multiple sports throughout his high school career.
“The biggest thing I am going to miss about high school sports is the friendships that I have built to go along with all the memories I have,” Heimerl said. “The friendships that I made are so valuable and irreplaceable. I never thought that high school sports would lead me to having some of the closest friends. They all helped me through my earlier years and high school, and then I was luckily able to help younger kids when it came my time to be at the top when everyone was looking. I wouldn’t change any of those friendships for a single thing.”