Brandywine retires 2002 graduate’s jersey in his remembrance
Published 11:03 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2010
By ERIKA PICKLES
Niles Daily Star
His jersey may be retired, but the impact and inspiration he gave both on and off the field never will be.
On Saturday, Oct. 2, friends and family gathered at the Brandywine High School baseball field to honor Patrick Curran and officially retire his No. 34 baseball jersey. Around 20 former Bobcat players, dating from 1986-2009, took part in the alumni game, which honored a young man who lost his life too soon.
Curran, a 2002 graduate of Brandywine, passed away July 30 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. He was 26.
But the game was not held to morn his loss. Rather, it was a celebration of Curran’s love of the sport and his career with the Bobcat baseball team.
“It was a great way to honor Pat. He loved the game of baseball and I’m glad I had the honor of coaching him,” Bobcat coach Dave Sidenbender said.
Curran, a pitcher and outfielder, played under Sidenbender during his junior and senior year. In 2002, Curran was part of the team that led the head coach to his first District Title with the Bobcats.
“It was really neat to hear the guys talking about the memories they shared with Pat on the field. Some kids played with him from their younger years all the way through high school. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to remember someone who meant so much to the Brandywine family,” Sidenbender said.
Sidenbender, along with Curran’s parents, Jim and Diana, organized the game and events of the day. Sidenbener said he hopes to now make it an annual event.
Curran’s family presented each player with bracelets, towels and hats, embroidered with Pat’s name, jersey number and the date his jersey was retired. Julie Udell cooked her “famous hot dogs on the grill,” something Diana said no one can grill better. The family was also presented with a baseball signed by each alumni player.
Jim had the honors of throwing the opening pitch of the game, something he said his son would have been proud of because “it didn’t hit the dirt.”
“The guys really had a great time out there. You could tell they enjoyed being on the field again. We’re glad they were able to take part in this. It would have meant a lot to Pat,” Jim said.
Former teammate and friend Casey Udell grew up playing baseball with Curran. Fourteen years ago, the two first played against each other at Fireman’s Youth Park.
“I was 10 years old at the time, he was 12. Even back then, I knew he had a great love for the game of baseball. He had a great passion for the game and always kept everybody on their toes,” Udell continued. “I’ll always have a special bond with Pat. Not only was he a great baseball player, but he was a great friend also. He would do anything for you.”
Curran’s best friend, Tom Ely, also remembers their younger baseball days together at Fireman’s, which eventually led to the Babe Ruth Baseball League and on to the high school level.
“We were best friends from the time we were 10 years old and baseball is something we always played together. It was a pretty emotional day, but it was fun to get out and play a game we grew up playing together. It definitely brought back memories, especially since I haven’t played in eight years,” Ely said.
Ely and Curran also attended Lake Michigan College together and worked at Alro Steel in Niles.
“We were together everyday. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t think about him. It’s been hard on everyone, but it’s great that we can keep the memories alive,” Ely added.
Udell, along with all of the alumni players, agreed it felt great being able to participate in a game that payed tribute to such a great person.
“The retiring of his jersey was definitely bittersweet. It will be great to see his number hanging on the fence at Brandywine’s baseball field because everybody knows what he meant to the Brandywine baseball family,” Udell added.
Along with the banner hanging in the Brandywine field, Curran’s jersey can be seen in a glass case at Pizza Hut in Niles.
“His jersey has actually been there for quite some time now. When the franchise contacted Brandywine for sports memorabilia, coach Sidenbender said his was the cleanest jersey so that’s the one they chose,” Diana said.
The Brandywine Athletic Boosters plan to engrave the case in Curran’s memory in the near future.
The Curran family and coach Sidenbender send their extended thank you’s to everyone who came out and supported the cause.
“Everyone from the maintenance department who prepped the field, to the alumni players and those who barely knew Pat who came out just to take part. It was a day we will all remember for a person we will never forget,” Sidenbender said.
On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Brandywine community payed tribute to yet another former Bobcat who recently passed away.
Leonard Drake, 56, died on Sept. 29 in Evansville, Ind. A memorial service was held at the high school in his honor.
Drake holds both the all-time single game scoring marks as well as the single game rebounding record in basketball.
After high school, he went on to play for Central Michigan University and was later drafted by the New Jersey Nets.
In his 33 years of coaching, he posted eight conference championships, seven conference tournament championships, five NCAA Tournament appearances, four NIT appearances and one WNIT appearance.