His love for the game will live on through the young players he taught

By JASON PATTERSON,

His life was tragically short, but scenes from Will Stonestreet’s life were documented on the pages of this newspaper more frequently than most.

Looking back through the archives there are photos and articles ranging from his successful youth baseball team coached by his father to the time when he scored the game-winning touchdown as quarterback for Manchester Academy’s football team.

There’s an interview where he humbly discussed being named to the All-Star team after an outstanding senior season for the Mavericks baseball team.

Stonestreet, who died Sunday from injuries in an auto accident at the age of 24, was a gifted athlete, and he often earned recognition for his performance. I covered some of those performances, and I always enjoyed watching him as a competitor because it was clear that he was having so much fun.

Obviously there’s much more to life than sports, and there was certainly much more to his life than those performances on the field, but there’s a good reason why sports bring so many people together.

Connections are made that last long after an athlete’s playing days are over. Teammates often become lifelong friends. Players still respect good coaches long after their playing days are over.

That’s why there are so many dads walking around whose only coaching experience was coaching their son’s youth baseball team are still called “coach” by former players who are now getting old enough to coach teams themselves. There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this you’re thinking of a coach who had a positive influence on your own life.

I think Will Stonestreet understood that.

How else could you explain a 24-year-old with no children making the commitment to coach a Dixie Youth team throughout the season and then into the All-Star tournament? That’s a big commitment even for someone who has a child playing, and he did it just because he loved it.

And his players loved him.

He brought that same enthusiasm he showed as a player in his new role as a volunteer coach. Parents of players on his team have shared many stories of what a great mentor he was for their children throughout the season.

While most people his age were celebrating the holiday weekend, Stonestreet was helping coach a Yazoo All-Star team. That says a lot about the kind of person he was.

It’s hard to find much comfort in a life full of so much promise ending far too soon, but there are a lot of young players in our community who are blessed that Will Stonestreet was able to share his talents with them.

That influence will live on through them.