Layne Chesney - #biggerthansoftball
What does it mean to be “bigger than softball”? Any coach or parent knows. It’s the sacrifice that is paid not just on game day, but on the early mornings knocking frost off the tee, hurrying to get to practice on weeknights that are already busy, the friends you meet in the stands. Softball is not just an activity – it is a lifestyle. The investment made by parents, coaches, players; it joins the people that are involved in a way that is unlike most other things in life.
It’s a community.
Like any community, we grieve when we have lost one of our own. Layne Chesney burst onto the scene as a 14-year-old player at the 2017 Babe Ruth Softball World Series. A member of the Jensen Beach Wildcats, she spearheaded their effort to take the 16U championship hitting three home runs, driving in 12 runs. Even as one of the youngest players in her team she was charging forward.
Unfortunately, Layne was involved in a tragic accident during the 2017 holidays while spending time with her friends. A gasoline can Layne was holding while attempting to re-ignite their bonfire, exploded covering her in flames and burning over 95 percent of her body.
In that moment – everything changed. She was no longer fighting on the field, but with her family by her side she was fighting for her life. And fight she did, defying all odds she survived the initial brutal injuries. Her mother Leigh Ann Chesney said “I know she’s my child and I’m biased, but I have never seen a person as strong as her”
Her struggle now in the confines of a hospital were bigger than softball. The community though, was stirred to action. One of our own was hurt, and one of our families needed our support. The outpouring of support is a testament to the strength of our community. Thousands offered words of encouragement, financial support, and collectively shared in their daily thoughts and prayers on Layne’s Facebook page.
At the 2018 Softball World Series the hundreds of parents and players present held #laynestrong24 placards to the sky – as a drone flew over and live streamed the support to Layne. Most of the players and parents had never met Layne, never seen her on the field. Still, every one of them had a connection to her – those mornings knocking frost off the tee, those nights spent hurrying to practice. No one needed to be told who Layne was or what her family was going through.
Layne turned 16 in her hospital room and support poured in for her. Teams wore her #laynestrong24 tag, thousands wrote her words of encouragement extending to celebrities that heard and felt her cause. Our cause.
In May of 2019 after her long fight, the injuries that Layne sustained became too much for her to overcome and we lost her.
Layne was not defined by her injuries. Layne was a champion – the antagonistic spirit that charged forward leading her team to a championship. In true spirit she fought against all odds, and in that she showed everyone in our community that we need to speak a little gentler, hug a little longer. After all, this is bigger than softball.