After dying in 2016 from cancer, former Bishop Moore Hornet Joe Skinner was remembered by University of Central Florida’s baseball team.
It was a seemingly typical game night at John Euliano Park, as the University of Central Florida Knights hosted the Wichita State Shockers.
But for the Skinner family, it was anything but normal.
After throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the game, they watched from the concourse as the Knights took to the field in gold jerseys that read “SKINNER” across the back.
It was a bittersweet moment for Judy, her husband Scott, and their daughter, Molly, who were in attendance as part of the team’s Joe Skinner Night — which honored the late Bishop Moore student who died in 2016 at age 17.
“It’s tough,” Judy said as she took in the game. “It’s amazing they want to honor Joe — it shows what a special person he is. We obviously knew it, but the fact that other people tell you how much that he has influenced them, and for the team to embrace him like this — Coach (Greg) Lovelady has been great the whole time, always making sure Joe was always a part of the dugout.
“It’s a tough weekend because Monday is the anniversary of his passing, so to have this, it kind of helps us get through the weekend,” she said.
Despite the solemn nature of the moment, it was a night to celebrate Joe’s life — one which was filled with love, family, and of course, baseball.
Although he was born in Missouri, Joe and his family moved in 2002 to Florida, just before his fourth birthday. In the Sunshine State, he began to develop a love for sports — especially baseball.
As a middle-schooler at St. Mary Magdalen in Altamonte Springs, Joe played a slew of sports, but found a passion for the game of baseball. From there, he played baseball at the high school level his freshman year at Father Lopez Catholic School before transferring to Bishop Moore his sophomore year.
Joe already had been receiving a lot of attention for his abilities out on the diamond and committed to the University of Central Florida to play, but he blossomed in Bishop Moore’s program
“Bishop Moore was definitely the place for Joe — he fit in right away,” Judy said. “They named the baseball field after Joe … a year after he passed.
“And much like UCF is doing now, Bishop Moore embraced us,” Scott said.
A week after Thanksgiving in 2015, Joe was complaining about feeling tired, so Judy took him to the doctor. After Joe had X-rays and other exams done, the family received a phone call instructing them to go straight to the intensive-care unit at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
There, the Skinners would find out the devastating news — Joe had B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“It’s a tough weekend because Monday is the anniversary of his passing, so to have this, it kind of helps us get through the weekend."
“Our mindset was, ‘OK, this is what we got. How do we beat this? What do we have to do?,’” Scott said. “Joe fought like a champion, but he was really dealt something — that at least right now — can’t be beat.”
On April 30, 2016, after five months of battling and before he was able to receive an experimental procedure at the Dallas Children’s Hospital, Joe died of complications caused by his cancer.
NEAR AND DEAR
Following Joe’s loss, the communities that knew him well honored the Bishop Moore senior in whatever ways they could — which included UCF’s Lovelady. Although he never met Joe, he approached the family about building a relationship between the program and the new SkinnerStrong Foundation.
“From the moment that I got here, I knew he was supposed to be here — I knew there was someone that wasn’t here that should have been that didn’t get that opportunity,” Lovelady said. “I’m big about being in the community — I’m big about raising money for some kind of cause. … It’s never been a personal thing that I’ve been involved with. It was just, ‘Hey, let’s raise money,’ and now it is a personal cause, which makes it much more near and dear.”
The UCF baseball team alone has helped raised thousands of dollars — with the most recent coming from a month long fundraiser that helped raise money for the Florida Hospital Foundation.
GOING OUT SWINGING
After the last out of the sixth inning was recorded, the Skinner family stepped back out onto the field alongside Lovelady and presented a check of $24,223 for pediatric cancer research to Florida Hospital’s Dr. Susan Kelly and Wendy Sullivan, director of network and market strategy. Last year, the team raised $33,000 for pediatric cancer.
With all the money and awareness raised for pediatric cancer, the Skinner family hopes people will walk away with a true understanding of who Joe was, and the good he has done — even after he left.
“Joe was the kind of person who wasn’t going to go out, unless he was going out swinging,” Molly said. “I hope that something that people take away is that, whether it was on the ball field or even when he was sick, there was never ever a moment where he stopped fighting. I hope people find something to fight for, too — whether it’s this or something else.”