When asked about his play in the field in the last inning of Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep of Northeast High, Redemptorist’s Andrew Compton didn’t hold back.
“I saw the ball come off the bat and it was hit pretty hard,” Compton said. “That’s what you call keeping your eyes on the ball.”
Compton snared the line drive in right field and started his own celebration. The RHS senior jumped up and down. His teammates and players from Northeast joined in and the crowd cheered.
What those on hand had witnessed wasn’t a game-saving play. It was a life-changing event for Compton, who saw his first varsity action.
Compton also reached base in the bottom of the inning, thanks to some soft tosses to the plate by Northeast’s 6-foot-1, 230-pound pitcher Marvin Minor.
“Andrew is on the autism scale … he’s high-functioning,” Compton’s father, Brady, said. “And he loves sports, especially baseball, and always has. What happened yesterday was just special.
“We’ve always been thankful to Redemptorist for including him in their sports programs for football, basketball and baseball. And this is a credit not only to Redemptorist, but also to Northeast. We know things like this don’t happen every day.”
Redemptorist coach Daniel Jewett said he had been looking for a chance to get Compton into a varsity game. Jewett said he got the blessing of Compton’s parents before inserting him in right field.
“Andrew is out there with us pretty much every day,” Jewett said. “When I was in high school we had a guy with special needs on our team, but he never got into games.
“He goes through drills with our outfielders pretty much every day. He can catch the ball fairly well. When that ball was hit I was a little nervous because it was harder than what he’s used to. But he came right in and made the catch.
“It was a great moment. He had his own little party out there in right field. Both teams joined in and it was fun to watch.”
Brady Compton made it a point to thank Minor, who also “misplayed” the ball hit back to the mound, after the game. Some in the crowd, including home plate umpire, Rufus Heyse, were emotional. Heyse, who has two special-needs siblings, said there were tears behind his mask.
“We were beating Northeast and they really didn’t have to do that,” the elder Compton said. “Just to see the way the players on both teams reacted meant a lot to me. It was sportsmanship at its best.”
Northeast (0-5) is still seeking its first win of the year. The Vikings earned plenty of respect for their actions.
Compton said he had one regret.
“You know I should have scored,” he said. “But we won, so it’s OK.”
Walker High was the surprise team tied for first place in the District 4-5A baseball race. That changed when the Wildcats (11-12, 2-1) lost 8-1 to Live Oak on Tuesday night.
WHS coach Randy Sandifer wants his team to channel the feelings the Eagles on Thursday night. Walker travels to 4-5A leader Zachary (19-5, 3-0) for a crucial 6:30 p.m. game.
“Live Oak already has two district losses and I thought they played with a real sense of urgency,” Sandifer said. “We need to play that way. The thing you have to do in district is stay as close to the leaders as possible.”
U-High (14-7, 2-1) plans to start Manny Miles (2-1) in the second portion of its District 7-3A series with Parkview Baptist (12-11, 2-1) at UHS. Game time is 4 p.m.