Paschal family grieves for baseball star
Fort Worth Paschal baseball coach Darrell Preston was panicked last August when he looked at his phone and saw the number of TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle.
“At that time of the morning, I just knew that what he was calling about probably wasn’t good,” Preston said.
And then, as quickly as he said thoughts raced through his mind, fearing for his former player Drew Medford’s health, he got the news that no coach wants to hear.
“He just told me that Drew was gone,” Preston said. “And the way I can describe it, is that a piece of me was gone too. I couldn’t believe it. I was thinking maybe he got in trouble, maybe he’d hurt his arm or something. It was a punch to the gut.”
Medford, a 2016 Star-Telegram Super Team pitcher, died in a single car accident on Chisholm Trail Parkway in the early hours of Aug. 18.
I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by great assistant coaches and I’m just heartbroken thinking about all the conversations we had about where we thought Drew would be in five or six years.
Paschal baseball coach Darrell Preston
“Obviously, there are so many overwhelming things,” Drew’s mother Nancy Medford said. “But as a family, we all began to realize how so many people were affected by Drew’s death.
“We started having to make decisions that were not just solely based on family, but all of these other people that loved my son so much.”
With the 2017 season underway, the annual Paschal-Arlington Heights tournament has been renamed the Drew Medford Memorial Baseball Tournament. The event begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.
Through tournament fundraising efforts, scholarships will be awarded to one senior on each of the six participating teams.
“I think it was the first day of school, I was scheduled to meet with my team for the first time and several of them were at Drew’s funeral,” Heights coach Steve Jimenez said. “It was very clear to me how much he meant to our kids as well.”
Paschal, Heights, Fossil Ridge, Weatherford, Hurst L.D. Bell and Burleson Centennial will play five games in a round-robin format.
It was one of those things where we thought a lot about what Drew would want. Once the idea around the scholarships was formally in place, I knew that was exactly something he would want.
Nancy Medford, Drew’s mother
The scholarships are what ultimately got the Medford family to become involved as well.
“It was one of those things where we thought a lot about what Drew would want,” Nancy Medford said. “Once the idea around the scholarships was formally in place, I knew that was exactly something he would want.”
Preston said making sense of Drew’s death was indescribable. Over the immediate few hours that followed, his head began to spin with what to do next.
“I had 68 young boys in my program, all sons to me, that I needed to take care of,” he said. “Sure, a part of me was gone, but I had these kids that were like brothers to him and a part of them was gone too.”
For Murray State (Okla.) infielder Sergio Conchas, Medford’s Paschal teammate, the news was devastating.
“One of our Paschal teammates called me,” Conchas said. “I can’t even put into words what it was like because Drew had texted me a few hours before he died.
“I was angry about it and I still am. I had a tough fall here and things that never bothered me before, I was reacting terribly to them. I struck out in a fall game and just mentally lost it once. It’s been tough.”
Returning to the baseball field has helped Conchas, but perhaps his biggest personal discovery was growing closer with his new collegiate teammates.
I had 68 young boys in my program, all sons to me, that I needed to take care of. Sure, a part of me was gone, but I had these kids that were like brothers to him and a part of them was gone too.
“I’ve had some breakdowns, lots of tears and I’m not shy about it,” he said. “Some of my teammates have been there every step of the way and they haven’t judged me for it.”
For Preston, the tournament is a perfect way to memorialize his former player.
“He was just the kind of kid that would give you his last $5,” he said. “He was a guy that hung around the little leaguers and shook hands with them and talked to them and a lot of guys don’t know how to do that. These kids looked up to him.”
Although in separate classifications, Paschal and Heights will renew their rivalry Saturday at 3 p.m. in the final game of the tournament. The Panthers will retire Medford’s No. 12 jersey in a pregame ceremony.
“I think we’re all closer now if that was even possible,” Preston said. “Life goes on for sure, but I lost a piece of my heart that day and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back.”
If time heals, then Nancy Medford and her family are all for it.
“I think maybe you get distracted by life and that helps, but I honestly don’t know what the future brings with happiness and joy,” she said. “We’re not as overwhelmed as we were three months ago, but it’s an everyday thing you deal with.”