BLHS senior forced to adjust to life off the field
Matt Fanning, star shooting guard on the Basehor-Linwood basketball team and leadoff hitting second baseman on the baseball team, has spent most of the last two weeks playing basketball -- on his couch.
After coming down with mononucleosis shortly after Senior Prom, the standout athlete has been relegated to his living room sofa playing NBA Live on Playstation 2 and sleeping away a percentage of his fleeting high school days.
"With summer coming and everything, you kind of want to do stuff," Fanning said. "I'm all alone at home, and everyone else is at school."
Dave Svoboda, Basehor-Linwood's baseball coach, was devastated by the news.
"My heart sank," Svoboda said. "I wanted nothing but the best for Matt in his senior year because of the way that he has worked. Matt set a great example every day in practice that allowed a (Brandon) Leppke and a (Ryan) Lawless to go out and do it. How do you setup on a ball? How do you go about taking pre-game infield in the right way? Matt did that."
The illness ended Fanning's season.
"It hurts pretty bad because I wanted to go out on a good note because I had a pretty good season last year and I was hoping to have a better one this year," Fanning said. "My defense was where I expected it to be, and my offense was just starting to come around, so I think I would have had a better season."
Fanning was one of the team's two seniors. Svoboda informed the squad of the loss on Tuesday.
"We talked about it for the first time on the bus," Svoboda said. "We shot straight with them. We felt bad for Matt, we care for him. But this is an opportunity for someone else. Not just for a short period of time, but into the future. It is a lost opportunity, but a gained opportunity for someone else to accelerate their development a little more.
"We only have two (seniors) and it gets cut in half. I found myself at practice the other night saying, 'OK, the freshmen do this, the juniors do this and the senior do this."
Fanning believes the team will miss more than his leadership.
"I think they will miss me, just because I think I take a lot of pressure off of some people," Fanning said. "Not many people like batting leadoff, and with our pitchers and defense, not being at second base, they are going to have to get some new trust in someone else. They trusted me to make plays at second."
Fanning had struggled at the plate up until this point in the season. Despite this, his defense remained stellar and his effort never waned.
"Even as he struggled at the plate he was just incredibly consistent defensively," Svoboda said. "You talk about those things and how important they are. The day-to-day approach. Matt was always consistent. When you are young (as a team), the consistency day to day is what you look for. That's what Matt brought. He was never too high or too low."
Svoboda didn't name team captains this year. With only two seniors, it would have been redundant.
"Matt and Cody (McCoy) are the de facto captains," Svoboda said. "Matt's best friend growing up was Cody. He has taken it the hardest of anyone."
At first, McCoy didn't believe Fanning when informed of the news.
"He came up to me and told me that the doctor had said he couldn't do anything," McCoy said. "At first I thought he was joking, that is how Matt is. Then I found out it was serious."
The team needed time to bounce back from the blow.
"The vibe around practice, we were down for awhile," McCoy said. "Now we are just trying to make the best of it with what we have. Losing him as a leadoff hitter is big, because he had such a presence at the plate. He got on base a lot. We should be able to fill it, but it will be difficult."
Svoboda expressed regret last week at Fanning's loss, but said he was relieved that Fanning didn't end up missing the season of his favorite sport, basketball. Did Fanning agree?
"Basketball is my first love, but I have been playing baseball longer than basketball, so I actually think that I am better at baseball than at basketball," Fanning said. "So it kind of sucks that I am missing the last season of my best sport."
Fanning's athletic career has probably come to a close. He is currently deciding between attending Johnson County Community College and the University of Kansas. He is leaning towards studying business.