Verrado HS baseball team honors teammate that died unexpectedly days before playoff game

BUCKEYE, AZ - Verrado High School's baseball team competed in a state playoff game Thursday without a star player who died suddenly this week.

Bryan McKinsey, 17, was found dead in his bed. His parents are now waiting for autopsy results to determine what happened.

Every Verrado player had a patch with McKinsey's No. 6 on his sleeve. They also kept McKinsey's jersey in the dugout during the game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. He was their relief pitcher, the game closer.

Relatives, including McKinsey's dad, attended the game, which Verrado won by a score of 13-3.

"This is where he'd want us to be," Daryl McKinsey said.

Many of the teammates played together since they were little boys. The families are a close-knit group that consoled each other before the game.

"I love him; that's all I can really say," said friend and former teammate Connor Smith. "I know he's happy, and I love him."

Prior to first pitch, Verrado's head coach offered advice to the team, which learned of McKinsey's death just 24 hours earlier. 

"For the next two and a half hours when we step onto the field, there's nothing," coach Mike Ward said. "There's no pain. There's no nothing. Come back to reality afterward." 

McKinsey would have been on the pitcher's mound Thursday. He spent summers playing baseball on the East Coast and already had a college scholarship offer. He aspired to play professional baseball.

"He loved it," Ward said. "He lived for that moment because he had control of the baseball."   

McKinsey's family describes him as fun-loving, big-hearted and loyal.

"He never wanted to be defined as a baseball player," McKinsey's dad said. "He wanted to be defined as a young man, and I think I did my job."

There will be a celebration of life service for McKinsey at 4 p.m. on  May 16 at Avondale Christ Church of the Valley. The church is located at 1565 N 113th Avenue in Avondale. A viewing will begin at 3 p.m. Friends or teammates that play ball are encouraged to come in their jerseys.

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