DES MOINES — Like the rest of his teammates, it was Dylan Springer’s dream to be a part of the first state championship team in the history of the Twin Cedars.
Just like the rest of his teammates, Springer was hoping to share that dream with his twin brother Derek.
No, Derek Springer wasn’t physically in the dugout Saturday as the Sabers closed in on a truly historic end to a truly historic season. He wasn’t able to walk out onto the diamond at Principal Park in Des Moines and help make a play or two that would help Twin Cedars close out the 11th perfect season in state baseball history.
That didn’t mean Derek wasn’t a part of the first Saber team to bring home one of the state’s biggest prizes. It also didn’t mean that, in some way, fans could see one last vision of Derek in No. 22 Twin Cedars jersey during the state championship game.
In what would be his final game of any kind as a Twin Cedars athlete, Dylan Springer traded in his own No. 30 baseball uniform for his brother’s No. 22. In what would be his final appearance on the field, as Twin Cedars closed in on its first state title, Springer gave Saber fans one more chance to see the No. 22 run the bases.
And suddenly, what was a historic day for Twin Cedars turned into a very emotional one. Dylan Springer, his family and hundreds of friends and fans said goodbye to a young man who was lost much too soon. Derek Springer, who lost his life in an automobile accident last summer, was certainly on the mind of his twin brother as he celebrated with his teammates the Class 1A State Baseball championship with several tears in his eyes.
“It didn’t really start to hit me until I reached second base,” Springer, who came in to run for Hunter Embray in the seventh inning of the championship game, said. “Everyone started cheering and everyone was standing up. I just thought of Derek.
“It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”
It wasn’t a moment that was manufactured. Springer had appeared in 21 of the Sabers’ previous 35 games, coming in as a pinch or courtesy runner several times leading to the senior scoring 18 runs this past season.
For head coach Matt Miller, the meaning of the moment didn’t even cross his mind when he first decided to put Springer in on Saturday.
“It wasn’t a moment that was planned going into the game. Dylan’s a very good base runner and he’s earned that spot,” Miller said. “God willing, it just worked out. God must have been looking down on us because that was a perfect spot for that moment. It’s a moment nobody is ever going to forget.”
It was a moment that has been just over a year in the making. It was last summer, in the midst of a 36-3 season that would eventually lead to Twin Cedars’ first appearance in the state baseball semifinals, that the team, school and community was shaken by the tragic and sudden loss of Derek Springer.
Springer’s No. 22 jersey has continued to be a constant fixture in the Twin Cedars dugout ever since. The jersey was in the dugout last year at Principal Park as the Sabers earned their first-ever state baseball win, a nine-inning triumph over traditional power Martensdale-St. Mary’s.
There’s little doubt that part of what drove Twin Cedars to its perfect 36-0 run to a state title was to win it for the player that remained a part of the team in spirit.
“I have no doubt Derek was looking down on us,” Miller said. “It means so much to everyone. It just feels like we’ve accomplished something that we know he’d be proud of.
“We haven’t thought about it a whole lot throughout the season, but definitely now that the season is over those feelings are starting to come back. That trophy is with him too. He’s every bit as big a part of our team as anyone.”
Understandably, it was hard for Dylan to speak about the final game of his Twin Cedars career without choking up. There aren’t many young men that go through something Springer went through last summer. Even fewer get a chance to share such an emotional moment with an entire community.
“It was an amazing ride to be a part of being a part of this team and part of this school,” Springer said. “We did it. The perfect season. I’m sure Derek would be proud. Incredibly proud. I’m sure he’s really happy we got it done.”
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