COVID-19 has had a different impact on many people and their futures. For freshman shortstop Cason Gregory, the transition from high school to college has been a swift change.
As a senior at Cleburne High School in Cleburne, Texas, Gregory was an All-State Honorable Mention, was named District Defensive Player of the Year as well as DFW Area Defensive Player of the Year and earned team MVP.
As one of the highest ranked players within the Metroplex, Gregory had options for where to continue his career. A factor in his decision was the distance from his home in Cleburne.
“It was close to home, so like, if I needed somebody, my family is 45 minutes away,” Gregory said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
One of Gregory’s biggest influences to continue baseball was his father.
“My father played DI football and baseball at Louisiana Tech [University],” Gregory said. “So I just kinda wanted to follow in his path and prove that I can do it, too.”
Along with his father’s influence, Gregory’s select baseball coach motivated him play collegiately.
“My summer coach, ever since I was probably about 15, he was like, ‘You’re going to be able to go somewhere, wherever you want,’” Gregory said. “UTA was the spot I wanted to go to.”
Seniors graduating from high school suffered the impacts of COVID-19 deeply. Cutting spring athletics ended promising seasons for some athletes. It was the same way for Gregory’s future run in the playoffs.
“It was not fun because we were actually number two in state whenever the season ended,” Gregory said. “We had a really good chance to go to state.”
The pandemic took away both the team’s season and its training facility. That didn’t stop Gregory from finding a way to keep in shape.
“We made a little indoor workout room in our house, so we would just go there every morning [and] work out,” he said. “You had to prove yourself. If you want to be a DI baseball player, you have to go out and work out and do all the baseball stuff to stay in shape.”
Being able to develop a consistent flow every day can be challenging for student athletes. For Gregory, it was a task. Now, it has become a constant along with COVID-19 testing, class and baseball.
“Sometimes it’s a little tough,” Gregory said. “I was a little worried about it at the start, but I got in the swing of things, and it’s just in my day now.”
In his journey to UTA and during his high school career, a familiar face followed alongside Gregory: Zach Peters, freshman pitcher and Crowley, Texas, native.
Gregory and Peters played on the same travel team during the summer but didn’t have the full-on friendship they gained while being together at UTA.
“We didn’t really know each other that well, but we knew of each other, and we knew we played with each other,” Peters said. “When we found out we were both going to UTA, that’s when we started actually talking more and building a better relationship.”
That chemistry between the two has been vital on and off the field.
“He’s just really easy to get along with. He’s not someone who’s just going to purposely make you mad,” Peters said. “He’s just someone that’s easy to be around.”
Peters said he finds it helpful when Gregory is on the field. He said it’s nice knowing that Gregory is familiar with his tendencies since it helps with communication.
“It’s easier with him out there,” Peters said. “I feel like it is a lot easier for us to, you know, that unspoken communication, to have that.”
Peters is not the only one who thinks highly of Gregory. Head coach Darin Thomas said he saw a gifted athlete with good defensive traits.
“He’s very advanced defensively,” Thomas said. “That was the biggest thing. And a very good athlete.”
Thomas said he envisions Gregory having a great future, not only as a ball player, but as a person.
“When he gets a little stronger, he’s going to be a really, really good player in our program,” he said. “Personality-wise, makeup are off the charts.”
Thomas said he was impressed with how Gregory has performed on the defensive side of the ball and his natural feel for the game.
“I give him a lot of credit, he jumped right in there defensively and had no problem,” he said. “He has a little better feel for playing defense than I thought he did, which is a good thing, but also just a good feel for playing the game.”
Gregory said the team has something to prove this season after the NCAA released its college baseball top 25 rankings, and UTA was not on it.
“We’re going to Omaha, we’re going to the College World Series,” Gregory said. “We’re going to prove everyone wrong. We just got snubbed out of the top 25. We have something to prove — it’s going to happen.”