By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
GIBSONTON – Jason Nugent is a very cool brother. He also knows how to make a spectacular entrance.
Nugent’s sister Elizabeth is a star softball player for East Bay High School. A senior, she recently accepted a scholarship to play softball at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. Her brother, a US Army sergeant stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia, had never seen her play. With three tours of duty in Afghanistan, the most recent in 2009, he never had the opportunity — duty to his nation called.
With her high school career successfully winding down, Elizabeth had one wish — and that was for her brother to attend a game. As the season neared an end, it appeared that would be a wish unfulfilled.
And that’s where the cool brother (and parents, coaches and teammates) come in.
It was senior night at the East Bay softball field on March 23 as the Indians prepared to take on Riverview. The team’s three seniors, including Elizabeth Nugent, were introduced to the crowd and audience and escorted down the infield by family members. Elizabeth was introduced last, her parents Gary and Patty Nugent standing next to her. As the announcer called her name, he broadcast a change in plans. Her brother Jason, just in on 24 hours leave from his duties at Fort Benning, walked out onto the field in full dress uniform, carrying flowers. A look of total shock on Elizabeth’s face soon changed to tears of happiness and she ran over to embrace her brother. The crowd rose to their feet and cheered. More than a few people had tears in their eyes.
“Elizabeth was so happy, so surprised,” said Patty Nugent. “It was the most emotional night I have ever seen.” Nugent went on to say that Elizabeth was so sad her brother had never seen her play that they coordinated with officials at Fort Benning for Jason to take leave to surprise her.
“It was uplifting how many people stopped afterward to shake Jason’s hand and thank him for his service,” she continued. “It was a very proud evening.”
The night before, Elizabeth hit her very first home run. On the night Jason proudly watched his sister play, however, the Indians fell to Riverview. While she had hoped to give her brother a win, she instead gave him her home-run ball from the previous game. Jason hesitated in taking her one and only home-run ball but Elizabeth insisted.
At her very next game, however, Elizabeth hammered out two more home-runs — giving her a total of three for the week. Clearly, her brother served as a great source of inspiration for the young star athlete.
His spectacular entrance certainly served as an inspiration to many others on the field and in the crowd.
Here’s a chance to see Elizabeth and her teammates in action: The East Bay Indians girls softball team will take on Tampa Bay Tech in Gibsonton on April 9. The game begins at 7 p.m.