ECU’s Parker Byrd becomes first Division I baseball player to play with prosthetic leg

Parker Byrd

GREENVILLE, N.C. — A college baseball player who lost his right leg after a boating accident two years ago got into a game Friday night for East Carolina University.

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Fittingly, Parker Byrd walked.

Byrd, who appeared as a pinch hitter in Friday’s game, became the first college baseball player at the Division Ievel to play with a prosthetic leg, MLB.com reported.

The sophomore, who lost his leg after the accident in Bath, North Carolina, on July 23, 2022, batted in the eighth inning of ECU’s 16-2 victory against Rider University, according to WCTI-TV.

Byrd walked on a 3-1 pitch in the Pirates’ season opener. The crowd of 5,221 at Clark-LeClair Stadium cheered as Byrd was replaced by pinch-runner Jason Janesko, ESPN reported. Byrd had returned to action after enduring 22 surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation process.

“I mean chill bumps man, its absolutely phenomenal,” Byrd said after the game, according to WITN-TV. “This crowd, these fans, these people, my family, my teammates, coaches I really could not be more thankful and blessed.

“I was ready to hit the ball but you get what you can. I was able to take the balls and was just able to get a quality at-bat and get to first base.”

ECU coach Cliff Godwin said he was also caught up in the moment.

“It is one of the proudest moments I have ever had as a coach,” Godwin told WCTI. “And he’s going to get some more. He has worked his tail off, it was super emotional. The umpire behind home plate told me when I was making a change he has been umpiring for 17-18 years and it is the coolest moment he has ever been a part of.”

“No it was awesome. He has worked his butt off man it is amazing what he has been able to do,” ECU outfielder Jacob Jenkins-Cowart told WITN. “I think it is funny he got a first pitch (that) was a breaking ball. But it was really good to see.”

Byrd’s story led to a commercial in the Greenville, North Carolina market that aired during the Super Bowl LVIII pregame show last weekend, WNCT-TV reported. In it, Byrd discusses his heroic journey.

“I said, ‘Mom, there’s not a D-1 player out there that has a prosthetic leg,’” Byrd said.

“And she was like, ‘Well, there always has to be the first.’”

Former major league pitcher Jim Abbott, who pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees dispite being born without a right hand, was among the many well-wishers offering congratulations.

“Well done Parker, nothing can stop you!” Abbott tweeted.

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