Kitty LaBay said every time she attends a baseball game she feels the presence of her son, Monty.
Now, his presence, and that of fellow former Eagle Shane Ingram, will be felt by everyone who attends an Ellison home baseball game forever.
On Friday, Ellison retired the jerseys of both players in a pre-game ceremony that was a special moment for both families.
“I really can’t describe it,” Kitty said of the feeling of seeing Monty’s white No. 17 jersey unveiled in right-center field.
Monty’s best friend, Chris Whittingstall, accompanied Kitty to the outfield for the ceremony Friday.
“It is just this wonderful, wonderful (feeling),” Kitty said, her voice trailing off, “because I know Monty’s watching.”
The moment was just as special for Mandy Ingram, Shane’s widow, who was accompanied to the outfield by a host of family members that included 9-year-old son, Garrett.
“I was really excited because they did one shortly after he passed, but Garrett was only 2 then,” Mandy said. “So, at least now he gets the opportunity to celebrate that.”
Garrett and the rest of the Ingram family watched as Shane’s gray No. 17 jersey was unveiled in left-center field.
But the families weren’t the only ones on hand to celebrate the lives of Monty, who passed at the age of 24 in 1998 due to athletic heart syndrome, and Shane, who died at the age of 36 in 2007 in a car accident.
Harker Heights head coach Glenn Cunningham, who coached both players at Ellison, was there not only for the Knights’ pivotal District 8-5A game later in the night but also to remember two of his former players.
Cunningham was close to both families; he and Kitty taught at Ellison along with Ingram’s father, who taught chemistry.
“Tremendous kids,” Cunningham said. “Different in their ways but still tremendous kids and a tremendous part of our program here at Ellison.”
Also in attendance were Mayor Daniel A. Corbin and Maj. Gen. Tony Ierardi, both of whom made it clear that the ceremony was bigger than baseball and bigger than just the Ellison community.
“This is a good way to recognize their achievements here at Ellison and their achievements later in life,” Corbin said.
Ierardi pointed out the importance of supporting a school like Ellison in a largely military community.
“This is a high school where many of our soldiers’ children attend school,” Ierardi said. “So it’s important for us to be a part of events like this.”
The gravity of the moment certainly wasn’t lost on the families in attendance.
And for Kitty, the Ellison baseball field once again lived up to her son’s glorious description of it during his high school career.
“This is wonderful,” Kitty said. “Monty always said that this was his field of dreams.”