YORK, Pa. – Senior Day – always an emotional time for those seniors who have spent the last four years with a program. Thoughts of the last four seasons, the teammates, the games, the memories flood one's mind as they prepare to begin their final regular season home match. October 23 was Senior Day for York's men's soccer squad as they honored their five senior student-athletes. For one player in particular however, Senior Day provided extra-special.
Senior Doug Bauer, the manager-turned-player whose dedication and love for the Spartan program is unquestioned, was getting his first start in his four years with the Green and White.
But back up a little – to a point well before this Senior Day.
Soccer has been a part of Bauer's life for as long as he can remember.
"I started playing when I was very little," Bauer said. "I had an older brother and sister who played, and my dad coached at the County College of Morris (N.J.). I grew up with soccer, and I knew going into high school that I wanted to keep playing. I didn't want to play baseball. I didn't want to play basketball. I wanted to play soccer."
Bauer ended up playing soccer on his high school team for four years – three of them varsity – as well as NJ United before coming to York College.
But Bauer did not choose York for soccer, nor was it is first choice in schools.
"Actually, my first choice was Salisbury. I know, I know," Bauer admitted, shamefully smiling about almost playing for one of the Green and White's biggest rivals. "But I came and saw York, and I knew it had a good education program, which was good because I'm a secondary education major. I also wanted small classes, and that's one thing they harp on here."
So how did Bauer get involved with the soccer program at York? Just ask him about his first day of tryouts his freshman year.
"Did Scott Becker tell you to ask that?" Bauer joked, referring to the senior captain defender of the 2009 Capital Athletic Conference Champion Spartans, who was also Bauer's friend and training partner. "Well, first day freshman year we had three-a-days, and it felt like a thousand degrees outside and even hotter on the turf field. I get through the first part of practices with all the walk-ons fine, but we were all living in the Manor North dorms during this time and it felt even hotter in there. So I'm showering and eating bananas like it's my job to hydrate myself, but I was really struggling."
During the second part of practice, Bauer said he began to feel more tired than he knew he should.
"In the last drill, I got a leg cramp, which is fairly normal for that kind of workout. But then I got a cramp in my calf, and then in my other calf and couldn't walk. I felt like a stupid freshman, but I thought, 'I have to push through it.'"
But Bauer finally had to tell the coach he needed to sit down, and sitting, he admitted, was his first mistake.
"Once I sat, my hamstrings started to cramp up, and then my quads started cramping up. So now I lost my entire lower body. I started screaming, and our trainer came over and had one of the sophomores help massage my calves. I asked him his name, and he said, 'I'm Scott Becker.' I kept thanking Scott for massaging my calves even though we were strangers."
Becker also remembers that day very well.
"Allison (Kunkel), the (athletic) trainer, recruited me to help massage out the cramps as someone else ran in to get a wheelchair," recalled Becker, who still laughs hysterically about the incident. "Yikes. So that is how I first met Doug."
For the rest of Becker's time with York, he and Bauer were training partners, running on the Grumbacher Sport & Fitness Center's indoor track at least three times a week, if not more.
"It was almost like a ritual to go and work out with Doug," Becker recalled. "I do not know how we started working out together, but every time I went running or lifting, Doug was there with me. And soon it turned into something we did every day. It almost seemed natural to figure out our schedules for the week and see when we could meet up at the gym."
When Becker was a member of the Spartans, he wore the No. 2 jersey – the same jersey now worn by Bauer.
Bauer said Head Coach Mark Ludwig promised him that if he stayed with the team as a manager up until his senior year, he would earn a spot on the roster. Bauer stuck with it and finally got a jersey and has been on the sidelines and in uniform for the Green and White throughout the season.
He and freshman Jason Good were two of the last two players to pick numbers, and they both wanted No. 12. Everyone on the team seemed to know how much Bauer wanted the number, but Bauer said Good took it to honor his brothers, Aaron Good, who played with York in both 2008 and 2009, and senior Adam Good, who currently wears No. 13.
Soon the only jersey left was No. 2.
"I chuckled when Doug told me he got my number," Becker said. "I was happy to see No. 2 out on the field for the senior game, and I'm glad he ended up with it."
Back to Senior Day. Bauer drew the start for the talented Spartan squad, standing with the first eleven at midfield, and listening the National Anthem. Bauer proved a hard-working, dedicated forward – a two words that have become synonymous with Bauer during his time with the program.
During the first half of play on Senior Day, the crowd saw Bauer sub out and trot off the field. Some even stood for him, but many more shouted his name, attached with "You're my hero!" or "I love you!" Bauer could not help but smile as he clapped to the fans, thanking them for the support.
"Putting [Senior Day] into words is actually very hard for me," Bauer said with fulfillment. "I can do it in two words: beyond expectations. My mom, my dad, my sister and my brother were all able to come, and that was special to me. I have friends on the women's and men's lacrosse teams, our baseball team, and friends that I accumulated throughout college who showed up, and that meant a lot to me."
Bauer would etch his name on the scoresheet in the second half as he assisted on Seth Hurley's 81st-minute tally. He was subbed out shortly after.
"When Coach took me out in the second half with about 20 minutes left, the ovation that I got coming off the field from the crowd and my teammates was fantastic. It meant so much to me, and I couldn't help myself but to acknowledge them, because the support was just so great. I didn't expect something like that."
Bauer said Senior Day summed up everything for him, from this year all the way back to his freshman year when he first battled through cramp after cramp for that spot with the then second-ranked team in the nation.
"I wanted to make the team on my own merit. I really wanted to do that. And so I would bust my butt for everything I needed to do," Bauer said. "I knew in the back of my mind I was still going to be on the team my senior year, but I was going to work for that roster spot."
Bauer never asked the coach if he earned a place on his own, so he assumes he will never know the answer.
But now he will.
"Doug has been an excellent addition to our program," Coach Ludwig said." He never took anything for granted, and he earned his spot his senior year."
Bauer may no longer have to wonder if he made the squad on his own merit, but he will always remember what his experience with the Spartans has taught him.
"Coach harps on creating life lessons: What you learn on the field will translate off the field," Bauer continued. "And something that I've always known to be true is that hard work eventually pays off regardless of anything."
Bauer was also rewarded the very next game, the CAC Semifinal against Mary Washington, by being the featured player on the game day program/poster – another small token showing what he has meant to the Spartan program.
"I wish I could bottle what Doug has," Ludwig remarked. "He is goal-oriented, driven and always stays as fit as he can ... He's proven a lot to himself, his teammates and his coaches."
Written by Todd Shellock - York College Athletic Communications contributing writer
Photo: Doug Bauer takes a free kick against Hood on Senior Day - photo courtesy of Zach Clabaugh - www.sharpedgefoto.com