After Tragedy Struck This Student Athlete’s Family, It Was More Important Than Ever For Him To Be On The Field

"Let's play and make him proud."

When Tyler Barnes found out his father passed away, he did something most young men couldn't.

The high school baseball and football player stepped up to bat in honor of his late father on the same day of his passing. And while his team may have lost the game, Barnes was a winner in everyone's hearts.

"My mom told me that morning," the junior shortstop at West Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, N.C., told the Charlotte Observer.

"At first, it was unbelievable. I was like, 'That can't be true.' But then, I came to my senses and I was not going to let it bring me down," Barnes continued. "I still wanted to make him proud. I know his favorite thing to do was to watch me play. I knew that's what he would want me to do. So I was thinking, 'Let's play and make him proud.' "

Described as "a great kid" by his high school's athletics director, Vernon Hunter, Barnes was seen as much more than that while playing what turned out to be a tribute game.

"I just found it astonishing he was able to play," Hunter told the Charlotte Observer. "I don't think he's missed a game since."

The 16-year-old star athlete's dad passed away on March 24 after a long battle with congestive heart failure, which he was diagnosed with when Tyler was only 8 months old.

Barnes continued showing just how much his father, who was also a "great athlete," inspired him even hours after hearing the devastating news of his death. It was his way of saying farewell to his "biggest supporter" and friend.  

"Through sports, I can still be with him, in a sense," he said. "He's who motivated me to play and who motivates me, even now, to do good and grind hard."

The high school junior, who also dominates the football field as a wide receiver, has a bright future ahead of him with college interest growing and offers already rolling in for his baseball achievements.

"Tyler is a special player," his baseball coach, Ramon Allen, told the local paper. "He's one of those gentlemen born with the 'It' factor that you only see once in a great while. To top everything off, with the passing of his father, the guy he looks to the most, he was very encouraging to his teammates and to us as coaches.

Allen adds, "He was his regular, upbeat self, given everything he was going through. He's just a great young man, all the way 'round, even before the tragic incident — and nothing's changed since."  

(H/T: Charlotte Observer)