Trace Cate is thrilled just to be playing baseball again.
While guidelines have been set in order for him to take part in summer travel ball, the recent Hillgrove graduate is on the field with his East Cobb Colt 45s teammates after the coronavirus pandemic forced the Georgia High School Association to bring an early end to the high school season.
With the exception of not being allowed to sit in the dugouts for summer games – players have to use the bleachers – it is business as usual for Cate as he prepares for his stage of baseball at Berry College.
Not being able to finish what he started at Hillgrove made Cate grateful that there is still plenty of baseball ahead of him.
“It definitely makes me not take anything for granted anymore, and to live in the moment,” Cate said.
Cate grew up playing soccer and basketball before giving baseball a shot at 8 years old. Growing up playing at Oregon Park in west Cobb, he gained an attachment to baseball because of the potential lifelong friendships he instilled with his teammates, which was carried over to his playing days at Hillgrove.
Cate was primarily a center fielder for the Hawks, with occasional opportunities to pitch or play third base. His quick reaction time and strong arm made him a stellar fielder, and he also hit third in the lineup with an average hovering around the .300 mark.
When the season came to an end, Hillgrove was 9-5 overall with a 3-0 record in Region 3AAAAAAA. The Hawks were on a six-game winning streak, which was capped by a three-game sweep over Kennesaw Mountain to open region play.
When Cate first got the news the season would be postponed, he said he did not think the pandemic would be as serious as it was.
“At first, we thought it would only be a week or two,” Cate said, “but we had to clean out our lockers and take everything home. It was heartbreaking. I never knew it would be my last time stepping out on that field. Hillgrove baseball is special. It's a special place. Every year, the team is tight.”
Hillgrove was hit hard due to graduation after the 2019 state runner-up season, and the much younger Hawks started the season 3-5 before finding their rhythm.
“Trace has a lot of talent and has made so many strides from a mental standpoint,” Hillgrove coach Dave Richardson said. “He's become so mature, and I am glad he will have an opportunity (at Berry). He's so versatile. He can play all three outfield positions.”
Cate will likely stay in center field at Berry, where he plans on majoring in sports communications.