BLUFFTON, Ohio — A decade after five members of the Bluffton University baseball team died in a bus accident, more than 150 people gathered around the campus’ Circle of Remembrance to reflect, remember and continue to move forward.
The memorial features a picture and description of each of the players who died on March 2, 2007, as the baseball team was traveling to spring training in Florida. Their chartered bus fell from an overpass in Atlanta.
The five student-athletes who died were Zachary Arend of Oakwood, David Betts of Bryan, Scott Harmon of Elida, Cody Holp of Verona and Tyler Williams of Lima. The bus driver and his wife, Jerome and Jean Niemeyer, also died. Twenty-eight others were injured, including head coach James Grandey.
President James Harder, who had just begun his time leading Bluffton when the accident took place, spoke of the accident’s significance to the campus community.
“The experience of the 2007 baseball team became a collective journey for this campus community — and the account of that remarkable journey has become inseparable from the identity and history of this 117-year-old university,” he said.
Harder quoted the words of Grandey, who spoke two weeks earlier during the 2007 team’s Feb. 18 induction into Bluffton’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
“We must move forward in a way that shows others who are in need the love and support that was given to us in our darkest times,” Grandey said then. “. . . I know there is no getting over or getting past the accident. What there is, is moving forward, which is what all of you started doing by completing the 2007 season. While moving forward, we will always remember our friends and teammates that we lost and their families.
“We remember their time on our beautiful campus and the contributions they made while they were here.”
The team was inducted in their first year of eligibility due to their courage and strength in responding to the bus accident.
Austin Every, a senior pitcher on the 2017 baseball team and information technology major from Zanesville, spoke of the connection between the two teams.
“Every single day as a group of my teammates and I walk to practice, we take a lap around the Circle of Remembrance. We do our own thing from gliding our fingers across the imprints or simply tapping home plate,” he said. “We take on this daily ritual to say to Zachary, David, Scott, Cody, Tyler and the 2007 team, ‘We remember. We remember you played our position. We remember you wore our number. We remember you are our teammates. We remember why we play this game.’ ”
The 2017 team will wear black jerseys featuring a special insignia throughout this season to commemorate the 10th anniversary.
Every’s brother, Kevin Every — who is also a pitcher on the team — designed the patch.
This is just the second time the team has worn black jerseys. The first time was in 2007 when Nike donated black jerseys to the baseball team after the uniforms were destroyed in the crash.
“To this year’s team the 2007 team is more than alumni,” Austin Every said. “They are our constant reminder to play every pitch, every out, every inning like it is our last, because one day it will be.”
In addition to the service, the university had a continuous 12 hours of presence of faculty and staff at the Circle of Remembrance starting at 5:30 a.m., the approximate time of the accident, and continuing until 5:30 p.m., to greet visitors who came to pay their respects at the memorial.