One More Catch
FULTON - On William Woods University's Senior Day, 10 Owls players took to Owl Field for the last time.
In a pre game ceremony, players lined up to shake hands with their coach and receive parting gifts from the team. But for one senior, his gift was still to come.
"You wanna go out on your own terms and especially a guy like that who is almost a legendary status in our league," head baseball coach Darren Munns said.
Derek Fletcher was a star catcher for the William Woods Owls . He earned NAIA scholar-athlete honors off the field and earned two NAIA Gold Gloves on the field. Fletcher had even caught the attention of pro scouts. But on March 22, against Harris Stowe, Fletcher's future came to a crashing halt.
"The pain was nothing compared to what it was like never being able to play a game I've played for ten year, fifteen years," Derek said. "To be taken off the field and know that that's probably the last game I'm ever gonna get to play in, that's the hardest thing that i've ever had to go through almost."
On a collision at home plate, Fletcher dislocated his ankle, tore multiple ligaments, broke his fibula and was told his college career was over.
"You so much for somebody to make sure that they live their dream, and then all of a sudden, in a second, the dream is done," Derek's stepdad, Harley Mosher said.
It was a crushing blow to the team and his family, including his brother Chris, who is a former Owls player and currently an Owls assistant coach.
"It took an extra toll just because it is your brother," Chris said. "I hate to say it but it's like your favorite player gets hurt so his career has ended in a cheesy way."
For some players, the injury would have been a reason to shut down and distance himself from they game. But for Derek, it was just a reason to find new ways to help his team.
"I've been here since that happened," Derek said. "And supported them like they'd have done for me."
And to show their appreciation for all his encouragement, Coach Munns decided Fletcher deserved one more chance to go out the right way.
"You don't want to see him wheeled of on a stretcher for his last play," Munns said "So, this is just something I kind of came up with. he's had a lot of memories here at Owls Field, so we just want to see him catch his last pitch here."
So Fletcher grabbed his gear and suited up. Munn's grabbed his sharpie and signed him up. And for one last time, for one last pitch Fletcher started behind the plate.
"It felt great to see the ball coming in, to see the whole field from back there,' Derek said. "Something I haven't experienced and didn't think I'd get to experience again. Kind of bitter sweet."
The moment brought the crowd to their feet and his family to tears.
"I'm so proud of my son," Derek's dad, Eric Fletcher said. "I mean, with what happened to him this year, and the way he's been able to overcome, I'm just super proud of the boy. Real proud."
Derek says he doesn't know where the future will take him but says even if he can't play again, nothing will keep him from the game he loves.
"I'm not done with the game," Derek said. "If I don't have a full-time job and everything and something, baseball opportunity comes my way, who knows."