Column: Saugus’ Hayden Trowbridge tries to stay positive in troubling times

In this uncertain world of COVID-19, where politicians are arguing, adults are stressed out and sports competitions are on hold, perhaps it’s time to turn to a level-headed teenager for inspiration. Meet 17-year-old Hayden Trowbridge, a baseball player from Saugus High who experienced a school shooting last fall and continues to offer words of hope as his senior season remains on hold.

“To put it short, I’m OK,” Trowbridge said by phone. “There’s a lot of people who say this has been their worst year ever and we’ve gone through so much. I think it’s been a year of lessons and learning to be an adult way earlier than I need to do.”

The class of 2020 at Saugus was already dealing with the consequences of a school shooting on Nov. 14 that resulted in five classmates being shot, two fatally.

Trowbridge was in an American government class when he heard disturbing sounds of gunshots.

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“I knew after the third loud bang. I said, ‘Oh, this is real.’ I yelled at somebody to lock the door. I immediately went into fight mode,” he said.

It took 90 minutes to be evacuated. “It felt like three hours,” he said.

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Infielder Hayden Trowbridge of Saugus is focusing on the positives of a suspended sports season.

(Hayden Trowbridge)

School was closed until Dec. 2. Saugus Strong became the school’s motto as the community came together to support one another. Life moved on.

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Trowbridge, one of the few Centurions with starting experience, began the baseball season with an injured back. After eight games this season word came down from the William S. Hart Union High School District that all sports competition would be halted until April 30 in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. That effectively ended Trowbridge’s season, because the final regular-season game is April 30. The campus was eventually closed and classes were switched to online.

What’s a teenager supposed to do after experiencing two shocks in one school year?

“I have a quote in my room. ‘Life will always throw curves, just keep fouling them off. The right pitch will come and when it does, be prepared to run the bases,’” Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge is showing how to handle curveballs in the era of required social distancing and social isolation. This last weekend, he went on a hike. He continues to work out at a friend’s batting cage. He played catch with a friend. He used FaceTime to speak to friends in London and Thailand. He started a podcast in 2018, “Teen Talk” about issues facing teenagers. Most importantly, he’s focusing on positives instead of negatives.

“This has allowed the opportunity to understand how important community is,” he said. “You can’t ever plan for this. It just happens. It’s how you react to it. Although it was very shocking, we came together as a community more than we have in my life. Everybody has been told quarantine, but more than ever I see families walking and going on hikes and talking.

“You can always see the bad, but it’s good for dads finally having time to be with their kids. I know it’s been great to have my parents home. We can can play games, we can talk, we can make breakfast together. People don’t do that anymore. We’re forcing ourselves to slow down to understand how amazing life is.”

It’s not just Trowbridge adapting and adjusting.

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Jackson Benattar of Crespi works out while trying to remain ready if the spring sports season resumes.

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Jackson Benattar, a junior center fielder at Encino Crespi, is batting .607. His grade-point average is 4.2. In what might have been his final baseball game for 2020 on March 11, he went four for four against Mission League favorite Studio City Harvard-Westlake.

If any teenager should be feeling sorry for himself in this time of no sports and closed schools, it should be Benattar, who lost his 24-year-old cousin to drowning in Oklahoma, having to fly on a Saturday to the funeral after playing in a game on a Friday.

“Life is not fair right now,” he said.

And yet, Benattar is gritting his teeth, logging into his computer, grabbing his weights and preparing for whatever lies ahead.

“Live the moment,” he said. “Control what you can control. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Expect the unexpected.”

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