Chambers’ parents on hand for emotional Curve game

Their son was loved and admired by so many people. All of the tears that were shed honoring him Sunday night were just a small indication of that.

In the most emotional ceremony ever held by the Curve, former outfielder Evan Chambers was remembered as a good friend, a good baseball player and, most of all, a great person.

Chambers died far too young at age 24 of a congenital heart defect in December. He has been honored all season by longtime friend and Curve outfielder Keon Broxton, who is wearing Chambers’ No. 53 in tribute and also writes the letters “EC” in the dirt every time he comes up to bat.

“He was a great person, a great friend,” Broxton said. “He pretty much mentored me through high school.”

Sunday, the Curve wore throwback 1992 Pirates-style jerseys with a patch of the letters “EC” on the sleeve. The jerseys were auctioned off during the game, so of course the No. 53 would go to a fan with the winning bid.

Evan’s parents, Denise and Dr. Evan Chambers, had been on vacation in Indonesia, but there was no way they would miss the special night honoring their son. They flew 20 hours and arrived at Peoples Natural Gas Field during the game, then took part in an on-field ceremony afterward.

One by one, the Curve players presented their jerseys to winning fan bidders.

Broxton was saved for last.

As he stood on the top step of the dugout, looking out at Evan’s parents, tears began to flow.

Broxton took a few steps onto the field, and what followed in a lengthy embrace with Mr. and Mrs. Chambers brought tears to the eyes of many nearby onlookers, including Curve players and coaches.

Evan is gone, and that’s so, so sad.

But here were his parents, with an unfillable void in their hearts, hugging the one person who has made it his mission to help carry on their son’s legacy and good name.

Words cannot describe how powerful that moment must have been.

“Keon’s just a wonderful person, great friends with Evan,” Denise Chambers said. “He said he’s going to take him all the way to the top, and I know he will.”

When they first arrived at the ballpark, Denise said it was very emotional to see Evan’s name on the marquee for being honored.

“I clutched my heart, thought I was going to have a heart attack,” she said. “What it was was my heart bursting from happiness and joy to see how they’ve honored him.”

For Evan’s dad, sharing his son’s former field of dreams was “truly amazing.”

“The most important thing for me this evening was walking out on the same field that Evan walked on, walking down the dugout the same steps that Evan walked,” Dr. Chambers said. “That was a truly, truly spiritual experience for me.”

Evan played for the Curve in 2012, missed most of last season with a broken foot and would have been back in Altoona this year.

His sudden passing devastated those who knew him, including many in the Pirates organization who had played alongside him. Bucs general manager Neal Huntington was one of several team executives on hand Sunday to remember Evan.

“It’s a great opportunity to honor the memory of an outstanding young man who was taken from us way too early,” Huntington said. “(His parents are) wonderful people that have experienced a tragedy, but they seem determined to continue Evan’s legacy.”

“It was awesome to see Neal and everyone here, and to see the signs ‘Evan Chambers night,’ it just really touched us,” Denise said.

Her son “loved everybody and had such a big heart,” which is why so many people in the Pirates organization have made sure to do their part in keeping his legacy alive.

“It’s just been astounding,” Evan’s father said. “I cannot imagine another team paying tribute to a minor league player like Evan was. I know Evan was a great kid, and they must have seen it, too.”

Sunday’s jersey auction raised $6,200 that will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Evan’s name.

His parents left with two jerseys: the No. 53, Evan’s number for most of his career, and No. 31, which he wore with the Curve. The 31 jersey was signed by all the members of this year’s team.

They say there’s no crying in baseball. But that’s not really true.

The tears that fell Sunday night served as a reminder that baseball is more than just a game, because when you’re a baseball player, your teammates, coaches and others become like part of your family.

Evan Chambers’ parents felt the love and support of their son’s baseball family Sunday.

“In our lowest moments,” his mom said, “we’ll remember times like this, and that will pick us up and make us happy to know how many people loved him.”

Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.