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Anchorage players lifted by spirit of fallen teammate

The joy the South High Wolverines experienced as they closed out the Alaska American Legion baseball state tournament with the championship was in stark contrast to the season's tragic beginning.

The Anchorage team, which is made up of players from one high school, lost one of its own when sophomore catcher Taylor Young died from head injuries following an accident in the school parking lot.

The 16-year-old, who was on cloud nine, says coach Chris Williams, after getting his own driver's license and car, was riding on the trunk of another vehicle when he lost his balance, fell and hit his head first on the car, then on the pavement.

Young was hitching a ride to his car at the time, says Williams. He was on life support for four days before being removed.

The accident occurred after the last game of the high school season, a day before American Legion tryouts and two days before the first scheduled game of the summer.

"That was a really hard thing for us," says Williams. "He was a JV kid, but we work out together all spring and we're all a pretty close-knit group."

Williams was a pallbearer and spoke at Young's service.

"That's one of the toughest things I've ever been through," he says. "The young guys pulled together as a team, but it was a struggle nonetheless."

All of the Legion baseball activities were canceled for a week.

Now, the players' uniforms bear Young's No. 1, and his jersey hangs in their dugout wherever they go.

On the positive side, says Williams, Young's donor organs have helped several others, and a memorial fund has raised $65,000 toward a new baseball field at the high school. The project's budget is $120,000.

South won the state championship on Thursday, then helped lay the sod for its new facility on Friday.

It's only the second new baseball field in Anchorage in the last 40 years, says Williams, and will be a lasting tribute to one of the Wolverines' own.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com