WARRENSBURG — On Friday, Sam Bledsaw sat behind, but slightly to the left of home plate in a lawn chair.
He was watching his son, Warrensburg-Latham senior baseball player Logan Bledsaw, for the fourth, maybe fifth time this season.
Each time Sam sees Logan, a catcher, call a pitch or step into the batter’s box is special.
Before Logan takes any at bat for the Cardinals, he stands outside of the batter’s box, dips his bat into the dirt and writes a simple word.
In February, Sam Bledsaw was diagnosed with leukemia, causing him to miss most of the Cardinals’ games this year.
It didn’t take long for Logan’s mother, Amy, to figure out what her son was etching into the dirt at the plate.
He’d done a variation of it for years, writing the initials of a friend who lost a battle with cancer when he was 16 years old.
Now, Logan honors his dad.
“It’s special," Sam Bledsaw said through tears. "He’s playing for me. I missed his senior year. … It’s special.
“That’s his passion. He lives for baseball."
Sam has bouts in-and-out of the hospital, usually in two-week intervals, Logan Bledsaw said.
Though Sam wasn’t in Warrensburg when Logan was honored on Senior Night, he’ll be there when Logan walks across the stage on graduation, and before that when the Cardinals (16-9) open the Class 2A postseason on Wednesday against either Tri-City/Sangamon Valley or PORTA in the Athens Regional semifinals.
That’s what matters.
“It shows how brave he is and how brave our family is," Logan said. "It’s toughness. Nothing is going to hold us down.
“It’s bigger than baseball. We’re out here having fun and he’s out here supporting me. It means everything in the world."
The times when Sam is at Decatur Memorial Hospital, and the Cardinals have a close enough game, Logan packs his things and heads to the hospital after the final out.
Despite the back-and-forth trips to the hospital to be with his dad, Logan said he never considered not playing baseball before the season started.
“He’s told me, ‘I want to be here for my teammates,’" Warrensburg coach Chris Elston said. "It takes his mind off of it."
Logan is hitting .400 with seven doubles, two home runs and 31 RBIs this season, while going 3-2 on the mound. He's one of eight Warrensburg players who got thrown into the fire last season.
In 2016, the Cardinals won 22 games, but graduated 10 seniors, forcing Elston to put out a lineup last season with limited varsity experience.
“We were basically looking for seven or eight new starters," Elston said. "We put them in there and they’ve taken off and they’ve grown. Three of them were all-conference players last year as juniors. They kind of took it and ran with it."
Though the Cardinals were young, Warrensburg went 15-11 and the players picked up crucial innings.
“It was good to get experience," Logan said. "We had a really talented group ahead of us. We learned from them and watched them succeed. They had a couple 20-win seasons. It felt good to be a part of a program like that."
This year, with experience under their belt, the Cardinals roared out of the gate, compiling a 15-3 record to open the season, before dropping five straight and six of their final seven games.
Warrensburg's bats went silent, scoring two or fewer runs in four of their final seven games.
“You’ve got to look ahead and think about the next game and not think about how we’ve been playing, and think about how we want to play and how we know we can play," said senior second baseman Kyle Goeckner, who is hitting .464 with six doubles, three triples, 23 RBIs and 35 runs.
Last year, the Cardinals won their regional quarterfinal game, but a comeback fell short against Argenta-Oreana in the regional semifinals.
Elston hopes the team learned from that game, and the Cardinals can produce the offense they're capable of — averaging around 10 runs per game despite the dry spell at the end of the year.
“I know offensively, we’re going to be able to do some things," Elston said. "We’ve just got to be able to pitch and defend. In that aspect, I do feel like we’re going to be able to hit. There shouldn’t be this, ‘This is going to be my first postseason at bat,’ and they’re relaxed when they get in the box. Hopefully we got that out of the way."
Bledsaw wants to notch a title for Elston, who last got one in 2009 with the Cardinals, but also for his dad.
And with last season's experience, and four talented sophomores in the fold to go along with the veteran seniors, Bledsaw and the Cardinals know how to handle the playoffs.
“You’ve got to keep trying," Bledsaw said. "There are going to be things that go wrong inning-in-and-inning-out. It’s the little things that we’ve got to try to control as much as we can."