The day after 25-year-old Marine Cpl. Derek Wyatt was killed in Afghanistan last December, his wife Kait gave birth to the couple's only child.
On Sunday, Kait accepted the gratitude of the community as Akron commemorated the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks by dedicating the high school baseball field at Reservoir Park in Goodyear Heights to her husband's memory. Their son, 9-month-old Michael, wore a pinstripe slugger's outfit for the occasion.
''The silver lining of tragedy is that it has power to bring out the best in people,'' Kait Wyatt said, representing the family at the ceremony. ''I have learned firsthand, with the tremendous amount of love and support from this community, and what it has shown my son and I.''
Sunday's ceremonies began at Goodyear Heights United Methodist Church, where members of Wyatt's family gathered for a procession to the nearby field. A color guard of the Akron Fireand Police departments led the gathering to the nearby baseball field, passing beneath an American flag suspended between two ladders extended from firetrucks on Hillside Terrace.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said Wyatt, a 2004 East High School graduate, would be remembered as a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend and a United States Marine who died on Dec. 6, 2010, serving his country.
''Derek was a talented athlete at East High, and on this field he became the second basemen of the first team at East High School in many years to qualify for the city championship. He became an All-City Series second baseman,'' Plusquellic said. ''Shortly after his death, one of his coaches, Jim Ballard, suggested that it would be appropriate to honor Derek's memory here at this field. And so we will dedicate this field today to him and to all of the fallen heroes who have attended East High School over the many years.''
Members of the 2004 East High baseball team took the field without their second baseman.
In his place, Wyatt's brothers stood by a Louisville Slugger bat topped with an East High baseball cap, along with cleats and dog tags and a small plaque with the Babe Ruth quotation from the movie The Sandlot: ''Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.''
School Superintendent David James said that Wyatt should be remembered, too, by all those who will play baseball at this field in the years to come.
''As we honor Derek's memory by dedicating this baseball field, let it serve as a reminder to all those young people who will play here on what a role model Derek truly was,'' James said.
The Rev. Sam Martin, U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, Akron fire Chief Robert Ross, Akron police Chief James Nice, Ward 10 Councilwoman Kelli Crawford and East High School Junior ROTC Master Sgt. John?MacLean also spoke.
Former East High School baseball coach John Osolin read a statement from coach Ballard, who could not attend.
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of a plaque dedicating the field as ''East High School Memorial Field, In Honor of Our Fallen Heroes, Cpl. Derek Wyatt, 1985-2010.''
John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.