Jacob Sanchez drives the ball down the first base line (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
Despite their final youth season being lost due to COVID-19, McNary Youth Baseball (MYB) wanted to provide one last memorable experience for their players.
The MYB outgoing eighth graders got the chance to play a pickup game under the lights against Woodburn at Volcanoes Stadium on Wednesday Aug. 19.
“With all that our kids have been through, we wanted to provide an opportunity for them to play under the lights at (Volcanoes) Stadium and give them that special moment before they go off to high school,” MYB president Bo Lane said. “I just wanted them to soak in the moment and have a great night playing baseball.”
The game was played in honor of Chris Holt, a Keizer resident and former youth baseball player who passed away in 2003 of leukemia. He was only 13 years old.
MYB has taken multiple opportunities to honor the memory of Holt, including creating a $1,000 yearly scholarship for any graduating senior of McNary High School who has been an active participant in any McNary High School sports programs.
MYB was also attempting to work alongside the Salem-Keizer School in renovating and renaming the field at Whiteaker Middle School to Chris Holt Field.
When COVID-19 put the plans on hold, MYB decided to recognize Holt and his family in a different way.
“Since the field renovation fell through, we wanted to take this opportunity to honor both Chris and his parents,” Lane said. “Chris was a great kid who had an impact on this community.”
While the McNary bats were quiet for much of the contest, the Celtics pulled off an incredible two-out rally in the top of the first.
After Woodburn pitcher Aaron Cruz started the frame off by fanning back-to-back McNary hitters, Landon Gerig and Bradley Fryman each reached on free passes to begin the Celtics threat.
J.T. Walsh then stepped to the plate and lined a double into the right centerfield gap, scoring both Gerig and Fryman. Walsh scored moments later on an RBI-single to right field from Andrew Hammond.
Logan Hendrickson drew a walk to continue the inning and both he and Hammond moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. The next hitter, Evan Lawson, legged out an infield single to score Hammond from third.
“The kids definitely got to showcase their skills. Even with two outs, they kept their foot on the gas. It’s a testament to our coaching staff and our program, It’s been special seeing these kids learn along the way over the years,” Lane said.
Ethan Ortiz started on the mound in the top of the first and gave up one run and two walks while striking out one.
Gerig came in to throw in the top of the second. Although he gave up a leadoff single, Lawson threw a seed to second base to throw out the runner attempting to steal second. Gerig then forced the next two hitters to groundout, ending the inning.
While the score got out of hand, in Woodburn’s favor, after the Celtics experimented with a multitude of different kids on the mound, the joy was not lost on the players who got the chance to play on a professional ball field.
“It was fun to see those kids get that experience. You could see that they were having a good time,” Lane said.