We Remember Ten Years

02/22/17

2007 Bluffton baseball team inducted into Athletics Hall of Fame

“You did not choose this road, but you traveled it as well as could ever have been imagined under the circumstances. Your profound and memorable journey—the tears and the accomplishments—during the 2007 baseball season and beyond, is being recognized and honored this evening,” with these words, Bluffton University President James Harder summed up the 2017 Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the 2007 Bluffton University baseball team.

Nearly 300 people were in attendance during the Feb. 18 ceremony in Bluffton’s Founders Hall. The team was unanimously selected for induction in their first year of eligibility due to their remarkable courage and strength in responding to the March 2, 2007, accident in in Atlanta, Ga., when the team’s charter bus fell from an overpass on their way to spring training. Five student-athletes were killed: Zachary Arend (Oakwood, Ohio);  David Betts (Bryan, Ohio); Scott Harmon (Elida, Ohio); Cody Holp (Verona, Ohio) and Tyler Williams (Lima, Ohio); along with the bus driver and his wife. Twenty-eight others were injured including James Grandey, head coach.

President James Harder presented each coach and player with a plaque as they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. The families of Zachary, David, Scott, Cody, and Tyler accepted for their sons.

Grandey, who remains as Bluffton’s head baseball coach, spoke on the team’s behalf and presented each inductee with a Hall of Fame pin.

“Those of us directly involved in the accident still manage our emotions, fears and pain on a daily basis. I’ve always had a hard time describing my personal feelings in regards to our tragedy,” said Grandey. “However, words are not lost to describe how proud I am of this group of men. You have all moved forward against circumstances that are unimaginable. If life teaches us anything it is that no matter how unfair, how cruel, how painful or how crushing a loss we are given, we must go forward. Life does not stop.”

Grandey continued his remarks by explaining that the team began the often painful road forward by completing the 2007 baseball season and the team continues to move forward by reuniting at the ceremony, this time many brought their growing families with them.   

“I am proud to address this group of men and catch up with them to hear all they have accomplished and what they are doing with their lives, the families they are building, and to see the relationships they still have with their teammates. And I will always remember Zachary, David, Cody, Scott and Tyler,” said Grandey.

Grandey continued that he is proud to bring new recruits to the Circle of Remembrance memorial and to explain to them what it means to play baseball at Bluffton. The memorial includes the handprints of each of the team’s players and coaches and the cleat imprints of the five players who passed away. Inscribed is Exodus 19:4, “I have carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

Many members of the 2017 baseball team attended the induction ceremony. The current team, in honor of the 2007 team, will wear black jerseys with a special patch throughout the season. The patch was designed by a current baseball player and reads “We Remember 10 years 2007-2017.” Grandey had an extra set of embroidered patches made for each of the 2007 players.

Grandey concluded his remarks by saying, “Thanks again to all of you who supported us beyond measure and thank you to the 2007 team for allowing me to be your coach.”

The team had been recognized in 2010 by the NCAA with the Inspiration Award, presented “to a coach, administrator or athlete who, when confronted with a life-altering situation, showed perseverance, dedication and determination and now serves as a role model to give hope and inspiration to others.”

The team was the first team to be honored by the NCAA with this award and was recognized for its courage in returning to the baseball field only 28 days after the fatal bus crash. Of the 25 surviving student-athletes who were on the bus, 24 graduated. One left the university in 2008 to play minor-league baseball.

Transportation laws were also strengthened following the crash. The Motor coach Enhanced Safety Act introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) became law in 2012, and it was announced among other things, the legislation will require lap and shoulder belts in all new motor coaches beginning in November 2016. It also requires stricter qualifications for drivers and more stringent vehicle inspections.

In 2014, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a national non-profit advocacy organization, recognized the 2007 team and families with its Highway Safety Hero Award for leadership and determination to enhance motor coach safety. John and Joy Betts, parents of David Betts attended the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., and accepted the award.

President Harder concluded his remarks with the words of team member Tim Berta, “The lesson I take from the 2007 baseball team is this: Regardless of the challenges ahead of you or the odds stacked against you do not quit. I remember each of the lives of Zachary, David, Scott, Cody and Tyler by doing my best to live my life to honor them and what they meant to everyone.” 

-B-