FW Cats Baseball Club
The Fort Worth Cats remember a former player who died in March after running a half-marathon.
Almost five months after losing a former teammate to a heart condition, the Fort Worth Cats honored him by putting his family front and center.
Mark Austry, a former player, collapsed and died in March after running a half-marathon with his brother. The 32-year-old unknowingly had a heart condition called myocarditis.
At home plate, the Cats presented his family Thursday with a specially made baseball card with Austry's picture and a jersey with his number.
"We did want to present the family with a jersey with Mark's No. 21 on the back," team spokesman Bric Shelton told the family and crowd.
Austry's family said they lost someone truly great.
"If he were here today, he would have been truly humbled by your generosity and the outpouring of support for our family," his brother, Michael Austry, told Cats fans.
Michael Austry said his brother's death was unexpected.
"It was so out of left field, and that makes it even worse because you're not prepared for it," he said. "You don't think about it; it just happens."
Mark Austry was many things to many people -- a father of two, a dedicated husband, a devoted brother and son and a former baseball player who played for Texas Tech and for the Cats.
"It still amazes me that, you know, my brother -- as young as he was -- still touched people the way that he did," Michael Austry said.
"It makes me proud of how well he turned out and how proud we raised him," said his father, Jerry Austry.
The memorial ceremony at Thursday's game was a big surprise to Austry's family. His wife and mother were hardly able to contain tears.
And fans in the crowd were deeply touched by the team's gesture.
"The impact he's had on so many people's lives is so gratifying to see -- that your children have touched so many people," Jerry Austry said.
It becomes clearer each day that Mark Austry will never be forgotten.
"I wear his ring, his Big 12 Southwest Conference championship ring," his father said. "I feel his presence close to me when I have that on. I miss him."
The team gave fans attending Thursday game an opportunity to donate money toward myocarditis research and a trust fund for Austry's two children.