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Honoring a young man who passed away in 2008, the Myrtle community gathered last Thursday to dedicate their new little league field at the school.
Austin McDonald was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 at the age of 11. It was also at this time that the community had plans of building a new little league field behind the school's softball facility. After learning of McDonald's illness, administrators gathered along with Hawks coach Robert Gordon and it was decided that field would be named in honor of the brave child.
“We knew we wanted to build a little league field, and it kept getting put on the back burner,” Gordon said. “We wanted to do something to get the kids out here and get them involved as well as having another field besides the one for them to play on. I talked to Mr. Jordan and told him it would be a good idea if we built the field and put it in honor of Austin McDonald.”
McDonald's family was in awe after learning that the new field would be named after him, an honor his mother, Monica holds as the highest and greatest thing to happen to the family.
“I was just blown away,” McDonald said. “I know my mouth fell open, and we, of course, were all crying. It was the most amazing thing. Austin was one of those kids that could have been turning cartwheels inside, but he didn't show too much. He was always cool and collected, but he grinned real big and kind of nodded his head. For us, it was the biggest thing ever.”
It was everyone's wish that Austin would throw the first pitch at the field, but things took a tragic turn, as he passed away in April of 2008. Ironically and very fittingly, Austin passed away on a day that was also his number, 20.
Now over a year later, the field is completed, and residents surrounded the new field to celebrate the life of Austin McDonald.
“It's very humbling to know that even after a year has passed, people haven't forgotten and they still remember,” McDonald said. “It makes me very proud to be a part of this school. My husband and I both graduated from here, and It amazes me. I'm so proud of the school and I'm so thankful for the community, because I don't know where we would be without them. We are so blessed.”
Both Gordon and McDonald spoke to the crowd before the tribute was uncovered- Austin's name and number on the center field wall. Afterwards, Austin's dad, Joe McDonald, threw out the first pitch before coaching his little league team.
Gordon best described McDonald, making a reference to one of the teams he played on, the Warriors.
“He was a Warrior while he was on earth,” Gordon said, “but now he's playing on God's team.”
“I can't think of anything that could top this as far as a tribute to him,” McDonald said. “I don't think there's anything that could have outdone it.”