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Byram remembered as 'a great competitor'

July 08, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI

John Byram was a bulldog and a daredevil, all wrapped into one 5-foot, 10-inch package.

The Hagerstown Community College pitcher, who had just recently graduated, was tough and fearless. He wanted to work hard, but was apprecitive of what he had. He always wanted to be in the middle of the action.

Byram lived that way until his unfortunate end. He was killed in an all-terrain vehicle accident Sunday in Carroll County, Md. It ended a small-town boy's quest to fulfill big baseball dreams.

Maybe Byram's biggest attribute was his inability to give up.

"He was scheduled to pitch for us (Tuesday)," said Dan Cunningham, the Hagerstown Braves team administrator. "He was so valuable in more ways than one.

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"He was a closer in college and we turned him into a starter. He threw 55 pitches in five innings one day, came back and threw 34 in four innings the next game and came on the next day to close a game for us."

That "give me the ball" attitude made Byram special.

"John was everything you wanted in a pitcher," said Hagerstown Community College baseball coach Scott Jennings. "He wanted to be out there in the tough situations. Not all players are like that. Some shy away from those times.

"He wanted to do well. He wanted to pitch everyday. Before every game, he'd tell me, 'I can go today if you need me.' He had a rubber arm and could pitch every day and could go an inning or two. He was a sidewinder and could drop down with a unique motion. He was a great competitor, but he was down to earth. He was appreciative of all his opportunities."

Byram, a Liberty High School graduate, played at Allegany College of Maryland for a season before transferring to HCC for his sophomore season. His death came a week after accepting a chance to play at Frostburg University next season.

"He made a good decision," Jennings said. "Other bigger schools made offers and he thought about walking on at West Virginia, but he took the guaranteed offer. He had big plans."

Byram, 19, led HCC with 23 appearances, mainly as the closer. He finished with a 4-0 record with five saves while carrying a 2.40 ERA for the 40-19 Hawks. He had 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 30 innings.

He kept in shape by pitching for the Braves of the Blue Ridge Adult League while taking summer classes at HCC. Byram was a much-needed addition for the Braves.

The Braves plan to have a short program and a moment of silence for Byram before tonight's game with Boonsboro at Smithsburg High School.

"He never backed down. He had that motion ... we called it the Frisbee," Cunningham said. "He loved to pitch with runners on base and took the ball whenever we asked."

It all made the circumstances of Byram's death hard to fathom.

"It sure was a shock," Jennings said. "You never expect something like this to a kid that young."

The funeral service is Friday at 10 a.m. at Haight Funeral Home and Chapel in Sykesville, Md. The family will receive friends Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the funeral home.

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