GLADEWATER — Emotions ran high Monday night as baseball returned to Gladewater with opening night festivities at the ballpark.
“We decided to come back when Governor Greg Abbott opened things up and gave us the avenue to do so,” said Gladewater Baseball President Scott Flanagan. “We got together with all the coaches and parents and did a running poll to determine who would play. We found out we had enough.”
The park was packed and everybody seemed happy that baseball was finally back in Gladewater. The youth leagues saw their seasons shelved before they could ever get underway in March when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on the scene.
“We kept patiently waiting on Dixie to let us know something. After talking with one of our representatives, Bruce Selph, and he was very much eager and optimistic we would get to play,” said Flanagan.
After a moment of prayer and the playing of the national anthem, each of the four ballparks took turns with ceremonial first pitches.
Roger Goetze took the mound first on field one named in honor of his late son, Wade, who was killed in a car wreck in 2000.
“I was here for the dedication of the field three years ago and being back here just brings back so many memories. Wade played here from first grade all the way through high school. Seeing all these people out here with their kids just warms my heart,” said Goetze.
The family of Carter Abernathy got things started on field two. Carter, who passed away in 1997 at the age of 9, was honored by his 6-year-old nephew of the same name throwing out the first pitch.
“In a few short years he made a pretty good impression. He was pretty special,” said Carter’s father, Brent.
Carter’s mother, Janice, added. “He loved ball and loved his friends. We all loved him and he loved life.”
Carter’s twin sister, Katie, along with her husband. Corey Ellis, and their two young boys proudly helped restart the baseball season.
“It was a flood of memories tonight,” said Katie, fighting back emotions. “I put my twin brother’s jersey on Carter. It was the last team he played for before he passed. I’m so full of pride and thanks to God that He gave me a son that looks and acts like my brother and loves the game of baseball.”
Over on field three, 7-year-old Brody Gumm threw out the ceremonial first pitch in honor of his late older brother, Brock, who lost his battle with osteosarcoma in 2018 at 9 years of age.
“I am honored and overwhelmed with a lot of emotion tonight,” said Brock’s mom, Paige. “He loved the game of baseball so much. We had to amputate his left arm after the cancer spread. But he still played. He’s always with us and especially at the ballpark.”
Gladewater Mayor JD Shipp had the honors of throwing out the first pitch on field four.
It was another step taken in the recovery process as people continue to move toward normalcy. And you have believe Wade Goetze, Carter Abernathy and Brock Gumm were smiling from on high.