Spring is often considered a time of renewal or reawakening. For a baseball player, spring is arguably the greatest time of the year.
Legendary rocker John Fogerty may have said it best in his baseball anthem, "Centerfield."
"Beat the drum and hold the phone, the sun came out today. We're born again, there's new grass on the field."
Westside standout Hunter Lester is the embodiment of those words. Heading into his senior year on the diamond, Lester was full of anticipation and confidence for the upcoming high school baseball season.
"I have been swinging a bat since I was 2 or 3 years old. I have played organized baseball since I was, like, 5 years old," Lester said. "What drove me was when I got to Little League and then on into middle school, I started to see my talent and I thought I might really be able to do something with it. I stuck with it and trained really hard to become a good baseball player."
Two weeks into spring practice, with opening day in sight, the anticipation turned to frustration for Lester when all spring sports were put on hold and eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It really sucked when we got the news," Lester said. "I had some really big hopes for this season and was looking forward to showing everyone how hard I had worked over the summer and during the offseason. I am just hoping we have American Legion baseball and fall ball, of course. That is what I am hoping for now."
According to Westside head baseball coach Jeremy Warrix, Lester has been a cornerstone of the Renegade baseball program over his career.
"Hunter played a little as a freshman, but started the next two years for me and, of course, would have started this year as well," Warrix said. "He was second-team All-Coalfield Conference last year and he is a really good kid. He is very passionate about the sport and loves the game of baseball. He has played anywhere I have asked him to play over the years and is very respectful to the coaches. Hunter has been a great representative for Westside baseball."
After playing baseball, football and basketball prior to entering high school, Lester primarily played baseball at Westside, outside of a short stint with basketball and cross country as a freshman.
This year he returned the gridiron and was glad he did.
"I dropped football entering high school to run cross country," Lester said."I picked it back up this year and it really helped me a lot. I got stronger, more athletic and I got in better shape."
Although the 2020 season did not go the way Lester planned, he has had several memorable games over his three years in Clear Fork. The first came as a freshman when he came on as a pinch-hitter to break up a no-hit bid by Man standout Cam Simpson.
However, his fondest memory came against county rival Wyoming East. Lester had no idea at the time that it would be the final game of his high school baseball career.
"The last time I stepped on the field as a Renegade player was over at Wyoming East in the sectionals," Lester recalled. "We wound up losing, but I had a really good game. I was 2-for-3, didn't have a single error and I had six or seven putouts. It was a really good game."
In the fall, Lester will turn his attention to college where he will attend WVU Tech to become a civil engineer. He also plans to continue playing baseball alongside fellow Renegade Brady Vance and Summersville Post 131 teammate Nate Hanshew.
"I am hoping to sign with WVU Tech really soon. I have been wanting to go to Tech for a few years," Lester said. "When Brady signed it drove me even more because I wanted to be with him again. Tech suited me really well. It was only an hour away from home and they had the major that I wanted. All around, it is a great school."
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