Bartels and Henshaw On the Unexpected Ending of their Final Baseball Season

The St. John’s Men’s Baseball team lost the majority of its 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For some of the players, this season was just the first of four with the Johnnies. Yet for others, it was the end of an era. 

The team finished their shortened season with two consecutive wins against Saint Peter’s and Iona before learning they would not be able to build on any of that momentum. On March 12, just a day after the team secured its victory against Iona, Interim Head Coach Mike Hampton called for a team meeting to deliver the devastating news that the season had been cancelled due to the pandemic. The team went 5-9 in the short 14-game season. 

As you can imagine, being a student-athlete in your senior year during this unprecedented time is especially frustrating. Seniors Carson Bartels and Mitchell Henshaw were in the middle of their final chapter, yet their books came to quite an abrupt end. 

Bartels, an infielder, spoke on his individual play and on the team’s play during their stretch. He played in all but one of the Red Storm’s games this season. He started 12 times in those 13 appearances. 

“First of all, we were still going through growing pains,” he said. “I would have liked to start off offensively a little better. You got to ride those waves and try to stay in the middle and I think our team was right on the verge of really taking off.”

When it comes to baseball, there are cold and hot streaks. Bartels struggled at the plate, batting .208 over 13 games. Yet, in the 2019 season after hitting .096 through 12 games, he finished the season batting .319. The road for Bartels and this ball club seemed to be trending upward before the waves came crashing down on their season.

Henshaw, the team’s catcher, shared his first reaction to hearing Hampton tell them they would no longer be able to continue the season. 

“It was just a whole lot of emotion going on in the locker room, that’s for sure,” Henshaw said.  “Especially a kid in my situation, I was a senior, there’s a handful of seniors on the team and we are all sitting in the locker room thinking our careers are over, it was a very, very devastating day.” 

Some senior student-athletes go on to play professional ball and others  finish their playing careers in college.

“I was angry, I was sad,” Bartels said. “I was angry this could potentially be the last time I played, I was sad I wouldn’t get to see these guys again, sad my college career was over.” 

Devastation and disappointment are the two emotions that come to mind when thinking about the senior athletes who did not get to choose when to hang up their college cleats on their own terms. 

The college careers of these seniors almost came to a disappointing end — until the NCAA approved an extra year of eligibility for all  athletes that play a Spring sport. What seemed a bitter end turned into a sign of hope for senior players, who will be able to come back and finish what they were building together. 

“I do plan on coming back for what would be my fifth year,” Henshaw said. 

Both Henshaw and Bartels seem eager to chomp at the bit once again and return to play baseball for St. John’s. 

However, there is not much to be done right now as our country begins to navigate the new reality. For the time being, we live in a world without sports and many parts of our country have been  affected in unimaginable ways. For Bartels in his hometown of Westchester, Illinois, mostly everything is shut down, and he is only able to go out for groceries and other essential needs.

“A lot of the small businesses and restaurants are really taking a hit,” Henshaw said in a response about the pandemic in his hometown Brockport, New York. “I’m just hoping this could all end soon.”

This time in sports history will surely leave its mark as St. John’s Men’s Baseball seniors look toward the future with aspirations to close their chapter in the way they have always hoped.