By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
When a coach genuinely cares about their players, they ride the same rollercoaster of emotions that their student-athletes do.
They celebrate with them in the moments of success.
They sympathize and empathize in the moments of despair.
For Windham football coach Jake Eye, the night of Aug. 19, 2022, was a night that tested him emotionally.
Already working within a fragile-sized roster, Eye watched as three of his starters and key players left the team’s Week 1 game at Lisbon with injuries.
Sophomores Jack Eye and Jayquan Smith, as well as senior quarterback Wyatt Hanshaw.
Eye eventually returned to the Bombers to complete the season, but the injuries to Smith and Hanshaw were serious enough that they were sidelined for the rest of the year.
With it being Hanshaw’s senior season, that hit coach Eye’s heart hard.
“It broke my heart, to be honest,” Eye said. “For Wyatt to lose his senior season like that, after he has worked so hard, that is just hard to take. It is hard to understand. It is not like you can redshirt and get that season back. It is gone and your heart just goes out to him for that. He is such a great kid.”
Hanshaw’s injury came in the second quarter on a throwback screen. When he went to plant, his leg gave out from underneath him.
“Watching it, you got the sense that it was may have been a serious injury, and we knew he was not going to go back in the game that night, obviously,” Eye said. “It was later that night, after the game, when we found out that he had torn his ACL and meniscus.”
The injury eventually cost Hanshaw his senior basketball season, as well.
There was always hope, though, that he could recover in enough time to return to the Bombers for the baseball season.
Fortunately for Hanshaw, that became a reality.
Still slowed by a protective knee brace and, admittedly, still not at full strength, Hanshaw stepped back onto the diamond on April 12 in a matchup against Bristol.
“I am so happy for him,” Eye said. “He worked so hard in his recovery to salvage part of the season for himself. I know that meant a lot to him and our entire team was excited to have him back.”
As they should have been.
Hanshaw was one of the most productive players in Portage County in 2022, with a batting average of .574, 31 hits, eight doubles, 14 RBI, 27 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.
More so, though, the Bombers were just happy to have their leader and friend back on the field playing the game he loves.
“The team was thrilled for him to be back,” Eye said. “Wyatt is such a high-character kid that it is easy to root for him. He did everything that the doctors have told him, and he rehabbed religiously to get to this point and is still going a couple of times a week to rehab and get stronger.”
Since his return, Hanshaw is still somewhat limited, and he has platooned at first base. He leads the team with a .500 batting average, but his bulky knee brace has deprived him of the speed he usually races around the basepaths with, which he has flashed throughout his career to beat a number of infield singles.
“He is not fully recovered,” Eye said, “but for him to get the chance to get back out there to play says a lot about how much he loves the game and how much he wants to be with the team.”
The feeling is mutual, with his teammates also delighted to have one of their leaders back on the field.