By Kyle Daubs

Derrick Landrus is a true rival of mine.

Despite graduating high school 10 years ago, Landrus and I continue to argue who is better between his beloved St. Louis Cardinals and my Chicago Cubs. When I was at CHS, he used to give me a hard time about having ties to Mattoon, given my history of somewhat growing up in the community.

When I say rivals, I use it loosely because we were never fierce enemies. We’re just two guys that like to talk about baseball.

What I can say about the Charleston baseball team is that Coles County didn’t have rivals in June. Despite living more than 100 miles away near Peoria, I could clearly see how this special team had united everyone in the county.

This Charleston team will be talked about for ages. When these kids are years out of high school, their parents and members of the community will always remember what this team accomplished. 

The Sectional Championship has to be one of the greatest wins that Marty Pattin Field has ever seen. Trust me, I have seen walk-off grand slams to inside-the-park home runs to outstanding pitcher’s duels. That win over Troy Triad will live forever.

Winning that Sectional title for the first time since 1960 makes this group All-Stars to me. Accomplishing this after missing all of last season, plus dealing with the hardships of the pandemic — and even starting the year off missing key players from football — makes these young men some of the best overall athletes we have seen in a while.

The team may have finished its season in the Elite 8, just two runs short of making the Final Four, but there are higher meanings to this season. Landrus said it best when talking to me last week. What these kids have done on the baseball field is impressive, but how they battled outside life makes them special.

Mattoon won the Apollo Conference, including a win in one of the best pitcher’s duels we have seen in recent memory. However, I read plenty of posts across social media from Mattoon patrons who supported this CHS team.

There was a time that Mattoon and Charleston would never want to be associated with each other. 

Maybe, times have changed.

Maybe, we have changed. 

Or, maybe, we just fully understand that rivalries can be friendly.