By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
At the beginning of the baseball season last year, Coach Keith Williams was excited as he looked forward to seeing the bright-eyed, energetic, multi-position player James Parker.
The beginning of the season was different this year. Parker was no longer on the team. The 12-year-old Tarboro native was accidentally shot and killed by his uncle in a hunting accident Dec. 28, 2012
Although stricken with the pain of the loss of Parker, Williams decided the 2013 season will go on in memory of Parker. On Thursday, the opening day of the Tarboro Park & Recreation Department 10-to-13 Tar Heel League, the coach honored Parker's father, Jimmy Parker, with a shadow box. A bat, an autographed baseball by his teammates and coaches and a relief shaped like the No. 6 (his jersey number) were placed in the box. Bullock's mother received a framed jersey. She will also be given a shadow box at a latter date.
The framed jersey is a symbol of Parker's jersey being retired. Parker played second base, third base, in the outfield and he also was a pitcher.
"I came to the conclusion that as long as I'm coaching a Tarboro Park & Recreation team, no other kid will wear that jersey," he said. "That is how much he means to me and this team."
The ceremony also included Parker's sisters, Jenny and Haley Parker, throwing the ceremonial first pitches. At least two dozen of the youngster's family attended the game.
The ceremony and the season may have been a little harder for Parker's father, who is also the assistant coach for the team. The older Parker admitted that looking out in the field and in the dugout and not seeing his son have been difficult.
"Some days are rougher than others," he said. "I do it because I believe that he would want me out there.
"He loved the game. He used to be the first one to practice and the last to leave."
Williams, a 14-year veteran coach, said he admired Parker on and off the field. He too admitted it not seeing one of his favorites on the field has bothered him from time to time.
"I love all kids but James was that much more special," he said. "He was a good player and an angel to everyone. He was sweet, kind and he always hustle. I felt like he was my child."
Perhaps that was why it became a no-brainer for Williams to dedicate the season to Parker during the first game of the season. Williams also made a bold challenge to his team.
"Our goal is to go undefeated for James this season," he said.
TP&RD Director Cheryl Gay, didn't personally know the young lad. However, she signed off on the idea to allow the ceremony to take place.
"I think it was a wonderful idea because it brought closure for some of the kids," Gay said. "It was a little sad but it brought a lot of smiles to the kids faces. It's something that I hope that we will never do again."