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Wichita 8-year-old inspires many in memorable game following dad’s death

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 9:52 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - An inside-the-park homerun was just one of the plays that eight-year-old Owen Hoag will always remember. Wearing his No. 2 jersey, he celebrated with his teammates Tuesday night after playing what might be one of his most memorable baseball games.

It was a game that honored someone special. Hoag’s father died less than 24 hours before Owen took the field Tuesday night. Through grief, he wanted to play for his dad.

“Owen actually gave me a call in the morning and said, ‘coach, I want to play tonight,’ and I said, ‘okay, we are going to give it a go,’ and I told him, ‘you can pitch if you want to,’” U-8 316 Elite Coach Clint Bleier said. “He didn’t hesitate, ‘I want to pitch.’”

Hoag’s father, Jeff, had been battling brain cancer over the last few years. People who spoke with Eyewitness News on Wednesday said the father and son were close. Jeff was Owen’s coach until last December. His players said he was one of the best coaches they’ve had.

“He was really inspiring. He was really kind, and whenever we were messing around, he would always inspire us to do better,” player Louie Meier said.

In front of hundreds of people Tuesday night, the U-8 316 Elite took the field, playing for their former coach. On the mound stood his son, inspiring strangers with his courage and bravery with a smile on his face.

“It was a big-league atmosphere. That is what it felt like,” said Jeff Hoag’s brother-in-law, Eric Tatum. “Any time Owen hit the ball or touch the ball, it erupted.”

One of the game’s loudest cheers came during a play no one in the stands or in the field will likely forget. Owen hit an inside-the-park homerun. It was a special moment on a special night that brought out the love of the game, as well as the love between father and son.

“That is what baseball does. It brings you together, you care about one another,” Tatum said. “When someone is losing, we are all losing. We are winning, we are all winning. That is exactly how it felt (Tuesday) night. “They made sure (Hoag) won.”

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