Friends and family of softball player Kaitlin Aylor, community members and Royals softball fans gathered at Eastern Mennonite University’s Gehman Field for a special ceremony Sunday, Oct. 15, to dedicate the new seating area behind home plate. The built-in terraces were funded by the Kaitlin Aylor Memorial Fund.
Aylor was a Madison County High School softball player who died in an ATV accident in August 2014, shortly before she was to begin her college career at Eastern Mennonite. A plaque in honor of Aylor marks the completed seating area.
Director of Athletics Dave King said the seating area, as well as a red bud tree recently planted near Gehman Field, will provide a lasting memory of Aylor, as will a second project, started at the request of the family. Personalized bricks can be purchased for $100 to complete the walkway in front of the seating area and create a living memory of Aylor. The fundraiser will run through the end of December with the bricks installed in the spring.
“This is a special day for a special person,” said Coach J.D. McCurdy, “and Kaitlin Aylor will never be forgotten by the EMU softball community.”
Angelia Miller, former player and current graduate assistant with the team, remembered meeting Aylor at a softball camp in 2012. The teenager introduced herself by her nickname, “Flea.”
“Every time we walk down this hill to the softball field, we know Kaitlyn is here,” Miller said.
Aylor, a shortstop, had attended every EMU game since her freshman year of high school and made it her goal to become part of the Royals team. She wore double zero on her uniform in high school and negotiated with McCurdy to let her wear that same number with the Royals.
Jordan Aylor, a 2015 graduate and Kaitlin’s cousin, gave thanks on behalf of the family and mourned the loss of her teammate and future elementary school teacher. She urged the softball players to play each game “as if it could be your last and play your hardest.”
The event was one of three posthumous dedications during the weekend’s Centennial Homecoming and Family Weekend: the others included the dedication of an outdoor sculpture to an artist-alumnus who died of cancer and an alumnus who was murdered in Africa while on a peacekeeping mission.
President Susan Schultz Huxman expressed sympathies to the grieving family and gratitude for “the way that you have joined us in honoring Kaitlin’s spirit.”
“In the many softball seasons to come, may this space pulsate with competitive games; sparkle with great plays, particularly at the shortstop position; and above all, create lasting community among players, fans and families in the spirit of our master teacher and coach, Jesus Christ,” she said. “Kaitlin, we feel your presence. We thank you for your legacy. We gather as a community to extend your witness as the student-athlete-citizen we strive to attract at EMU. May double zero have double impact at EMU today and always.”
The dedication was followed by an alumni game, which involved Miller and Jordan Aylor, along with Brooke Sigrist, Brooke Hensley, Mariah Foltz, Aislinn Lucas Bowen, Niki Cuevas, Casey Racer, Lauren Seale, Lauren Campbell and Erin Fartel.
For more information about purchasing a brick to honor Kaitlin Aylor, call 540-432-4631 or click here.