Crowds at softball and baseball playoff games have steadily been packed as COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed.

The high school spring sports season is traditionally one to remember for many athletes and teams, as champions are crowned in a number of sports.

But one year ago, there was an empty feeling in the hearts of many.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected every walk of life around the world and Texas high school sports were certainly no exception.

On Mar. 12 of last year, the boys basketball state tournament in San Antonio was already underway when the University Interscholastic League made the decision to postpone that event, as well as all other extracurricular activities, indefinitely.

The conclusion of that tournament never came, as the UIL ultimately decided to cancel the season, prompting a sudden end for not only those teams, but for athletes in soccer, tennis, golf, track and field, softball and baseball.

It was a difficult situation for all parties, but one would have to feel especially bad for the seniors of the Class of 2020.

The senior year is supposed to be the culmination of years of hard work and an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

While a select few athletes are able to go on and continue their athletic careers on the collegiate level, a majority were left without a sense of closure, whether it be from a final trip to the playoffs, contending or winning a state championship or simply being able to walk across the field with their families for Senior Night.

During the summer, there were legitimate concerns that the same thing could happen to athletics during the 2020-2021 school year.

As the pandemic raged on, the UIL optimistically, yet cautiously, made the decision that sports would be played, albeit with enhanced safety measures, including the wearing of masks, social distancing amidst limited crowd capacities and the elimination of regional tournament sites.

Many wondered if the cancellation of the spring sports would carry over into the fall, with volleyball, cross country and football serving as the “guinea pigs” so to speak in terms of how the seasons would be handled.

Though the fall sports season did not pass seamlessly, as many teams were forced to miss or postpone games due to COVID-19-related quarantines, the seasons were completed and state champions were crowned.

Those issues continued during the winter and spring sports seasons, but as time went on, and the pandemic numbers continued to drop, the restrictions started to ease.

That has been especially evident during the last month, and in particular at softball and baseball playoff games, where stands have often been packed, creating the type of postseason atmosphere that people have come to expect during this time of year.

Twelve months ago, the predominant outlook on the athletic year was one of uncertainty.

While the world is not completely back to normal, that feeling of uncertainty has been replaced by optimism.

After a one-year hiatus, the month of May saw state champions crowned in golf, tennis and track and field.

The state softball tournament is scheduled to conclude later this week, with the state baseball tournament slated to do the same next Saturday.

Though it might have been unheard of at this time a year ago, the biggest hurdle in completing games recently has not been the pandemic, but rather the unusual high amount of rain.

After months of silence at high school venues at this time a year ago, it was been reinvigorating to see the world seemingly getting back to normal.

There is the usual range of emotions, as some enjoy the exhilaration of winning, while most suffer the agony of defeat, knowing their seasons, and in many cases their careers, did not come to an end in the way that they hoped.

But given what everybody had to endure a year ago, simply being able to go through these experiences, for good or for bad, is something all parties involved should have a greater appreciation for.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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