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First Division I baseball player with a prosthetic leg makes his debut for East Carolina

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A college sophomore made history Friday night as the first athlete with a prosthetic leg to play in a NCAA Division I baseball game.

East Carolina University’s Parker Byrd, 20, drew a walk in his season-opening first appearance at the plate against New Jersey’s Rider University.

Byrd was injured in a July 23, 2022, boating accident in a creek near the Pamlico River when the propeller damaged both legs, which ultimately required the partial amputation of one, according to ECU.

Byrd has credited paramedics for rushing to the scene and saving his life. “It’s really the people along the way that have helped me,” he said after Friday’s game, according to NBC affiliate WITN of Greenville, where ECU is located.

The standout pitcher from Scotland High School received a scholarship to play for his parents’ alma mater, but his freshman year was dedicated to a recovery that included 22 surgeries, according to ECU and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

After the accident, Byrd thought his baseball days were over, but his mother, Mitzi Byrd, noted that Division I’s dearth of players with a prosthetic leg meant the title of “first” was up for grabs.

“It gave me hope,” he said in a Challenged Athletes Foundation video.

Byrd’s community raised $90,000 online to help with his medical costs, ECU said, and the nonprofit foundation helped secure a grant for a specialized Össur Sports prosthetic, it said in a Facebook post about Byrd.

The training, conditioning and focus to get back on the diamond were all on Byrd, who was determined to play as a sophomore. He was switched to third base and put on the field with faith in his ability to deliver for his team, the Pirates.

As Byrd began to draw national attention in his drive to make history, ECU head coach Cliff Godwin saw him as a player who transcended the game’s physical demands. He saw Byrd as bringing something extra.

“He makes me better and makes our team better,” Godwin said in an ECU East Magazine story about Byrd.

After Friday’s game, which the Pirates went on to win 16-2, he said seeing Byrd take the field was “one of the proudest moments I have ever had as a coach,” according to WITN.

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