GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Will Parker Byrd defy the odds and one day take the field for the East Carolina baseball team?
If not, it certainly wouldn’t be for lack of trying. Byrd, a freshman who now dons a prosthetic right leg after undergoing numerous surgeries and an amputation following a boating accident last summer, still wants to play for the team he verbally committed to before playing a single high school game.
“I wouldn’t bet against him,” ECU head coach Cliff Godwin said Monday when asked if Byrd could return. “I tell people all the time … I wouldn’t bet against him, I just see the way he works and the attitude he has.”
Byrd was seriously injured in a boating accident in Bath in July 2022. He was in the water, attempting to return to his boat when his ski rope got caught in the boat’s propeller, pulling Byrd toward the prop. The propeller severely injured his legs, and the damage was so extensive that doctors had to amputate his right leg.
Godwin still remembers the day of the accident.
“We had a recruit on campus, and of course, I don’t answer my phone with a recruit, but we’re finishing up,” he said. “I had just finished up offering him a scholarship, and my phone just kept ringing and my watch, and I looked down and it’s (Parker’s father) Jeff Byrd. It was on a Saturday.
“I knew the third time he was calling that it wasn’t good so I just told the recruit and his parents I had to step away. And Jeff obviously was in a panic and said hey, I need you to get over to the emergency room. So I dropped whatever I was doing and got in my car and actually beat Parker there to the emergency room.”
The news of the accident quickly moved throughout the region, as Pirate fans and others came together to support Byrd and his family.
“I was off playing summer ball in Rhode Island and heard about it,” ECU junior Alec Makarewicz said during the baseball team’s media day Monday. “Whenever I got back I introduced myself to him and got to know him real well.”
Byrd has since been going through a rigorous recovery regimen, which includes his prosthetic right leg. He hasn’t wasted any time putting it to use.
Byrd is a Laurinburg native and Scotland High School graduate who was preparing to start his college career at the time of the accident.
Godwin said there’s “no timetable” on Byrd potentially returning to the baseball field.
“The thing that Jeff and I talked about originally was to make him part-time,” Godwin said. “He was a part-time student in the fall, he’ll be a part-time student in the spring so his clock doesn’t start for his eligibility.
“He just got his prosthetic right before Christmas,” Godwin added. “What a great Christmas present. And probably I was a little bit naive — it’s not something that when you get a prosthetic you just put it on and bam, you’re going. You’ve got to get that area toughened where you can have the prosthetic on. You’ve got to get those quad muscles strong. So it was a process for him to be able to wear it for the entire day.
Godwin said Byrd could move on to a “more dynamic” prosthetic as he progresses.
Even though he’s not playing, Byrd is having a major impact on the program.
“Seeing Parker Byrd come through the facility with a smile on his face, and him being at practice when he can, when he doesn’t have PT and stuff — if that doesn’t put things into perspective, then I don’t know if you’ve got a pulse,” Godwin said. “That’s been awesome. He makes me better, he makes our team better. Obviously, it was a very tragic moment, but I’ll tell you what, of all the people it could ever happen to, he’s taken it and ran in a very positive way.
“He’s not just affecting our team. He’s affecting people all around the country in a positive way.”