TUSCOLA — Adam Carver isn’t like the majority of players participating in the Eastern Illinois Baseball League.
The summer wood-bat organization brings in many high school and college athletes. Carver coaches some of those individuals, currently serving as Tuscola High School’s baseball leader.
Carver isn’t logging repetitions to prepare for another competitive spring season, like so many of his E.I. teammates and opponents. He’s just got “the itch to play some more baseball,” after his college career that ended in 2013 after playing both at Kaskaskia and Southern Indiana.
“It’s exciting to kind of be one of the older guys and get to compete against some of these younger guys that are still living out their college dreams,” Carver said. “I like to go out there and show them the old guys can still give them a run for their money.”
Carver has done just that in each of the last two weekends pitching for the Paxton Swedes.
He threw a complete game three-hitter last Sunday in a 2-0 loss to the Royal Giants and on July 19 went six innings while allowing just two hits and striking out six during a 1-0 loss to the Buckley Dutch Masters.
Not the end of the world for Carver, though. Even though Paxton is 0-4 ahead of Sunday’s 4 p.m. postseason semifinal between the third-seeded Swedes and second-seeded Buckley, Carver is getting the chance to show he’s still got something in his baseball tank.
“It felt good,” Carver said. “That’s probably one of the bigger crowds I’ve played against at Buckley. That’s a really supportive community in terms of their E.I. baseball, so they were probably champing at the bit to get out and watch.”
The E.I. League is one of few summer organizations in Illinois that maintained its 2020 season despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s just five weeks long — three weekends of regular-season play and two weekends of postseason play — instead of lasting most of the summer, but it still provides an opportunity for some wanting to play.
“I was excited that they didn’t just cancel it right away like some of these other leagues,” Carver said. “When all this started, it kind of put the kibosh on all this stuff. ... I was holding out hope, and I appreciate the higher-ups and the administrators holding off and giving these guys a chance to get some sort of baseball in in their summer.”
Carver was drawn to the E.I. League by Urbana Middle School baseball coach Brandon McFarland, a former E.I standout with the Dutch Masters. He and Carver interacted while Carver was umpiring a summer game, and Carver joined the Urbana team that, at that time, played in the E.I. League.
That program no longer is involved, so Carver has suited up for Paxton for “most of my (seven) years” in the league.
Carver, whose 2020 season overseeing Tuscola baseball was canceled because of the pandemic, said E.I. baseball offers him feelings he hasn’t otherwise experienced since his college career concluded.
“From a player perspective, it’s still fairly good competition,” Carver said. “It’s only on Sundays, so it’s not like it’s going to consume a lot of your time. ... And the thing about it is the guys who play in this league are guys that really love the game of baseball. They’re not getting paid. They’re essentially spending money in terms of travel and gas to continue playing the game that they love.”
Carver also is in a unique position because he gets to compete both for and against younger players whom he was seeing in high school games not long ago.
“Chase Vinson (on Paxton’s roster) was a kid that played for Oakwood back when I was the JV coach at Tuscola,” Carver said. “It was his senior year and he came to our place and pitched in the sectional game, and now I’m teammates with him. ... Then Asher Bradd (on Royal’s roster), graduated from Monticello just in 2019, I coached against him in my first year as a head coach, so I’m kind of familiar with him.”
Perhaps more than anything, charging out of the dugout for an E.I. League game this summer gives Carver a little time to get back to the world he knew before COVID-19 was all over the sports headlines.
“It felt as normal as normal could be,” Carver said. “When I was out there playing ... it felt good. For the four hours we were out there, I didn’t have any thoughts of COVID or anything like that, and it didn’t seem like anyone else did as well.”