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Pandemic shifts the view of Glenwood Springs’ senior

Sam Fitzwilliams pauses during a workout before CHSAA canceled the 2020 high school baseball season.
Sam Fitzwilliams

Sometimes in life, unforeseen events grant a dose of perspective.

After a torn MCL, meniscus and dislocated kneecap in his final football game, senior Sam Fitzwilliams went through three months of physical therapy. Once that was done, he worked out and put on nearly 25 pounds in preparation for his real love: baseball.

The season was made up of a single preseason game before it was canceled altogether. But his story isn’t one of anger toward an unpredictable problem.

Instead, it’s about a shift in view.

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“When there was still a chance they were going to play, he was pretty focused still,” Fitzwilliams’ father Scott said. “Now that it’s over and it’s been completely canceled, he’s looking forward to other things.”

Nights of thought and discussion made the other thing clear: law school.

Sam’s been accepted and intends to head to the University of Colorado in the fall where he’ll take on the Leeds School of Business and minor in environmental science.

A 3.8 weighted grade point average at Glenwood Springs High School has allowed Sam to enter CU without having to deal with the burden of full tuition – another key reason to bypass a career in baseball, though he plans to play club at the university.

After his four years at CU, he plans to take the Law School Admission Test. If successful, he wants to go to either the University of Denver or continue at CU for his law degree.

“I’ve always been fascinated with law and the way our country is run,” Sam said. “I also am pretty outdoorsy and love the environment, so I want to focus on environmental law, rather than civil.”

Through the decision process, Fitzwilliams spoke with his father who was once a Division III baseball standout at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a program which at the time was towards the top of the nation.

Scott made clear to his son the physical and mental difficulties of competing past high school.

“Even back then, it took a lot of time – now it’s a whole different ballgame,” Scott said. “They start with a fall schedule; we didn’t have to do anything in the fall. We just showed up and figured out who was on the team and that was pretty much it until January.

“Kids have to be really committed because it’s a lot of work.”

A year off from baseball made attending a school strictly for sports even more difficult. Joining new teammates and getting back into peak baseball shape – all without the luxury of live at-bats – wasn’t going to be worth it given Sam’s other interests.

Many players have had their chances for offers all but taken away during the virus’s reign. The one thing Sam’s lost which sticks above it in his mind was the loss of a team.

“I’ll remember the people,” Sam said. “My friends have kind of turned into brothers almost because I’ve been playing with them since I (started) baseball. We’ve always had such a great group of guys. That’s definitely what I’ll remember the most.”

Given the players around him, the team’s clear upward direction and a chance to once again play the role of cleanup hitter, a season could’ve made even more memories.

It likely would’ve also changed the final decision.

“I love baseball, it’s definitely my No. 1 sport,” Sam said. “Depending on how I did – I think I would’ve done plenty well since I trained harder than I ever have – I think that would’ve made a huge difference in my decision to go pursue that Division II career.”

lzahlmann@postindependent.com


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