Several members of the West Orange baseball team dedicated the Warriors' playoff game Tuesday to the memory of Joe Skinner — and they weren't alone in fondly remembering the baseball standout for Bishop Moore, either.
WINTER GARDEN The West Orange baseball team had just defeated rival Apopka in the regional semifinals of the state playoffs Tuesday night to advance the program to its first regional final in six years.
It's not an understatement to say that the moment was a pretty big deal for everyone involved in the program.
But, instead of wanting to talk about what it meant to beat the Blue Darters — who had ended the Warriors' season in each of the past three seasons — or about his monster home run in the sixth inning, senior first baseman Nate Schreckengost wanted to talk about Joe Skinner.
"I played this game tonight for Joe Skinner, who just passed away — a close friend of mine," Schreckengost said.
Skinner, a 17-year old senior at Bishop Moore Catholic High School in Orlando, passed away this past Saturday from complications during a bout with leukemia.
A standout baseball player who had signed his National Letter of Intent to play college baseball for UCF just two weeks before his diagnosis in December, Skinner was a beloved part of the Central Florida baseball community and Schreckengost wasn't alone in wanting to honor him with his play Tuesday night. Players for both teams found ways to inscribe "4 Joe" somewhere on their person or uniform, with many doing so on medical tape wrapped around their forearms.
West Orange head coach Jesse Marlo, who also coaches travel baseball during the offseason, said after the game that every player on his team knew Skinner through the Central Florida baseball circuits and nearly everyone considered him a friend.
"He was just a great kid that had an impact on pretty much everybody he met," Marlo said. "He was one of those guys that you kind of became his friend instantly once you meet him."
The Warriors and Blue Darters did their best to honor Skinner on the field, while other area programs and players whose seasons have ended took to social media with hashtags including #4Joe, #SkinnerStrong and #ForeverSkinnerStrong.
Even before Skinner's passing, the Dr. Phillips baseball team had dedicated a fundraising effort for cancer research with Vs. Cancer to Skinner. Skinner's own team played on Tuesday night, with the Bishop Hornets winning an emotional playoff game that was preceded by a ceremony in his honor.
"It's a huge loss, but I know he's up there looking down on us," Marlo said.