There was never a question in Brandon Jones' mind about what he wanted to do out of high school.
“My dad did it, his dad did it,” Jones said. “I just kind of carried on the tradition of joining the Army I guess.
“I've kind of told everybody my whole life that I was going to do what my dad did.”
Sunday, the just-graduated Rattan senior will travel to Oklahoma City to report before heading to Fort Jackson, S.C., for basic training.
When he officially enlisted in December, Jones didn't have any idea that he'd have to leave unfinished business behind.
But the Rams' right fielder and No. 5 hitter will be leaving before the Class A state baseball tournament concludes. The tournament has been suspended since May 3 after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association halted the tournament and announced it would appeal Wright City's injunction to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Wright City was forced to forfeit its first-round state tournament game before being granted a temporary restraining order in McCurtain County District Court.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Friday, leading to a scheduled Tuesday appeal in front of the OSSAA's board of directors.
None of that will come quickly enough for Jones.
“I don't think it's right,” Rattan coach Ryan Cordell said of Jones missing the tournament. “Especially when he's leaving to go serve our country.
“He's a mature kid and he's kind of accepted that this is not the most important thing in the world. He's tried not to show any emotion on it because he's a tough kid but I know it's hurt him.”
Brandon might not show much emotion, speaking of the disappointment without falter, but it's harder to contain for Jones' father, Andy.
“We figured this would all be done in early May,” Andy said, choking up. “With him missing out, he didn't get a chance to finish what he started. I'm proud of him for going into the Army.”
Brandon doesn't blame Wright City's players.
“It's just kind of the situation I guess,” Jones said. “It does say in the rule book that you can only play so many games. But I can't really be mad at anybody because I understand that the kids at Wright City didn't have anything to do with it.”
There was a brief glimmer of hope Friday morning after the decision came down that Jones might be able to play if the tournament could be scheduled for Saturday.
But once the decision was read, it was apparent the saga would drag out after Jones had left for training.
Karen Jones had been trying to prepare her son for the possibility for the last two weeks.
“We were hopeful until just really this last week, then it his us. ‘Oh my gosh, you're not going to get to play,'” Karen said. “I told him if we didn't hear by Tuesday probably, you're going to have to go turn in your uniform. We can't keep pretending that you're going to get to play because it's probably not going to happen and somebody else needs to be practicing in that spot.”
The Rattan baseball team has been a big part of the Jones' life for much of the last four years.
The kids on the team have been part of it for longer.
“Half of them spend time at my house all the time,” Karen said. “They're like my kids too. I've known them all their lives. I'm proud of all of them, not just because my son's on the team.”
So Andy and Karen plan on being there when Rattan resumes the tournament against Cashion — whenever that is.
“We've been doing this four years watching them boys and we're not going to stop now,” Andy said. “All these boys want to do now is play ball and get them a ring.”
Brandon knows he'll be on the minds of everyone on the Rattan side when the games are finally played.
“A bunch of my teammates are really upset,” he said. “They've all been thanking me and stuff for going to fight for our country, telling me they'll do their best to win one for me.”
Cordell has tried to keep his team focused throughout the last month, as it continues to practice with no idea when Rattan will be able to play again.
But Cordell's focus has been hard to maintain of late as Jones' reporting date crept closer.
“I'm honored that I got to coach him,” Cordell said. “I'm proud of the choice he made to enlist. The Army's getting a great kid. I just wish the best for him. It won't be the same for my players to go out and play without him. Hopefully we'll win the championship for him.”