Greenway baseball team honors alum who died serving his country

Remembered from battlefield to baseball field.

Every field, every stadium -- both big and small –- is filled with moments -- magical moments that create memories of a lifetime and players that became legends before our eyes.

One of those ball fields is home to the Greenway Demons.

“There’s definitely some at-bats I remember, different moments and games for sure,” said Head Coach Matt Denny.

In 46 seasons of Greenway baseball, almost 600 players have worn the green and gold -- all of them part of a rich history.

But one player is revered –- his initials are on every hat.

“Just a great kid," said Denny. "[A] selfless kid who worked real hard.”

His name is Tyler Prewitt. The three-year varsity letterman graduated in 2001.

“He was a scrappy player who gave his all,” said Matt McDonald.

One year after graduating, Prewitt traded one uniform for another, enlisting in the Army.

“We tried to talk him out of it,” said his mother Jonnie Prewitt.

Prewitt served three years in the Army, his last mission was in Iraq.

“They were on a scout mission and the Humvee was hit by an RPG,” she said.

Tyler Prewitt died a few days later. He was 23 years old.

Jonnie said, “We were met [in Germany] with all the officers in full dress, you knew something was wrong."

Every season since, the Greenway baseball team has worn caps with the letters "TP" on the side.

Every player knows his story -- one of compassion, commitment and sacrifice.

“He was just a really good guy who was very competitive,” said Denny.

Every year before the season begins, Denny reminds the team about sacrifice and teamwork, a story that always involves Tyler Prewitt.

“He was a hero,” said McDonald.

Then in 2008, Coach Denney had an idea after some players complained about getting foul balls.

He took a batting helmet, painted it Army green camouflage and put Tyler’s initials on the back. Every player who had to shag foul balls wore the helmet.

Players quickly got the message.

“There’s a lot more sacrifice than you’re making,” said Denney. “Others make bigger sacrifices.”

The helmet is now a Greenway tradition at every game.

Hanging on a hook at home and sitting on the dugout steps on the road – it is only worn to shag foul balls. “That’s it,” said Denny.

“It has a role. One job: to get foul balls, that’s it,” said Justin Freeman.

The helmet was never worn in a game. No player ever asked.

Denny said, "No one wears it, no."

It was never said but every player knew, the helmet was for one thing only.

For eight years the helmet has served this team and done its job but this year something changed. The last home game of the season was “Tyler Prewitt Night” at the ball park.

Jonnie Prewitt and her other kids and grandkids were at the field. Before the game, the baseball program held a ceremony to honor Tyler and one of the players asked to wear the helmet in the game.

“I said, 'I don’t think so, we have never done that,'” Denny said.

But then after a few minutes of thinking, Denny had a change of heart. “I just said, 'let Matt wear it then put it back on the hook,'” he said.

Matt McDonald walked to the plate and, for the first time, a player was wearing the TP helmet in a game.

“I was nervous, real nervous,” McDonald said.

The Saguaro pitcher would wind and throw, McDonald would swing.

“I saw the ball and hit the ball,” said McDonald. He hit it high and far.

“When he hit it my chest started pounding, no way did this just happen,” Denny said.

The ball sailed some 350 feet over the fence for a homerun.

“I was in disbelief with what I did,” said McDonald.

He had never hit a homerun in his career.

“We were all jumping up and down and screaming,” said Freeman.

Up in the stands Jonnie had to be told what happened, she had no idea McDonald was wearing the helmet.

“They were like, 'you can’t believe what just happened,'” she said.

It was the first time since Tyler Prewitt played at Greenway that Jonnie Prewitt had watched a game at that field.

“When he hit it that was it, it was like, 'here’s your sign, I’m watching,'” she said.

After rounding the bases and high-fiving his teammates, Matt McDonald walked to the end of the dugout and put the helmet back on the hook, where it will stay until the next foul ball.

For everyone who was at the field that night they saw something they will never forget, a moment that will live on forever. 

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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