Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

The circle of life, baseball and the Tehachapi Warriors

Xs and Arrows


"The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love." – Sportscaster, Bryant Gumbel

That love was on display on May 14 when the Tehachapi Warriors varsity baseball team played their final game of the season in an 8-4 loss to Exeter in the CIF Central Section Division III playoffs, hosted here in Tehachapi. While it did not come out in favor of our Warriors, there were moments of the day that members of my family and I will never forget.

Not only was it the first time in quite a while that the Warriors hosted a home playoff game, but my nephew, Colton Christy, a senior, was playing what ultimately ended up being his last game ever in a competitive capacity. My Little League team was invited to run onto the field with the Warriors for the National Anthem, and Colton was partnered up with my two sons, the youngest of the cousins in our family. Colton is 17, they are 7 and 5, as I made the youngest who is not technically on the team our unofficial "bat boy" a job he cherishes and completes with dedication and a smile when he grabs a bat after a hit.

It was special watching one of the oldest cousins stand there saluting America with his two youngest cousins in tow. The Warriors fell short after one solid inning from Exeter that saw six insurmountable runs placed on the board. The Warriors battled, and despite putting the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, including a hit from Colton in his last at-bat, the runners stayed stranded, my nephew being on third when the last out was recorded.

The reality set in at that moment, but honestly, so did the magic of this game. I had warned my boys that day if Tehachapi lost, Colton would be playing his last game, a concept they struggled to grasp. In their young baseball careers, there is always another game, another at-bat, another season to be played, but the reality is quite the opposite. Every ball player has this day, some are more fortunate and that day comes after a long college or professional career. Some have that day in high school, one never knows.

I had that day in high school unknowingly, joining several of my classmates in protesting our senior season due to poor leadership within the program. We played for a coach that should have been fired years before, and one who drove us into creating our own league, one I have written about before as the greatest time of my life on a baseball diamond. I eventually had that final career moment just a few years ago, after playing recreational softball (the ballplayers last semblance of the game), at a high level while in Bakersfield, I rejoined a league in Tehachapi after a few years on the shelf. It wasn't there for me anymore, I couldn't compete, even at the rec level near where I had a handful of years prior, I knew it was time to call it quits. That night a few years ago I walked to my truck after our last game, took one last look at the lights, thanked the Lord for putting this game into my life and drove away. Dedicated now instead to coaching the game, and on occasion, suiting up for an alumni contest, but my playing days are over.

When the Warriors lost and as I exited, my oldest nephew Nash, a Warrior himself just eight years ago, who played his final game in the CIF Championship, was the first to grab Colton at the player gate and give him a hug. He later told me he felt he needed to do that because he knows that feeling of it all coming to an end all too well. I could not have been prouder of my family in that moment.

My oldest son was upset on the way home realizing that his cousin had played his last baseball game. Out of the mouth of babes came things like, "I want Colton to play baseball forever," and "whoever made up the rule that one day you have to stop playing baseball is stupid!" It was a genuine teaching moment, to which I responded with a life lesson, reminding him that is why I tell him and his teammates that every at-bat, every inning, every practice and every game is special. Because one day it will have to end because it is someone else's turn to step onto the field. One day it will be their turn, hopefully their story ends in triumph, but either way it will end. When it does I expect those older boys who have gone through it to be waiting at the gate for their younger cousins to address the difficult moment together, just like I saw last week.

This is the circle of life in baseball, and the circle of life as a Tehachapi Warrior. Your time comes to an end but you never, never lose that love of the game, love of your town and the irreplaceable moments that both have provided for you.

As baseball Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said, "When you start the game they don't say 'work ball,' they say 'play ball!" For those that get to play, that is certainly an understatement.

Every game has its beginning and end, while the endings can seem melancholic, the happiness lies in the simple fact that you were allowed to play to begin with. Will you miss it? Absolutely. Will you regret it? Not a chance.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter, broadcaster and athletics administrator. He advocates for the value of athletic competition and serves as the President of the Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club. He can be reached at [email protected].