LOOKOUT VALLEY, Tenn. (WDEF) — Merriam Webster defines tradition as the handing down of customs by example from one generation to another.
For the Lookout Valley baseball team, and community, tradition means so much more.
“Couldn’t understand why my baby was gone, you know?” Sherri Gravitt said.
On October 6, Troy Gravitt, Jr. died after crashing his motorcycle on Interstate 24 in Dade County.
“I was devastated,” Lookout Valley senior Zane Howard said. “I’ve known TJ for a long time, and it didn’t settle well with me.”
In high school, TJ played second base for the Lookout Valley Yellow Jackets — helping the team make it to the 2006 state championship.
But he’s remembered even more for his smile and positive attitude.
“He was just well-known by everyone. You could not be from here and hear his name,” Lookout Valley senior Rylen Chandler remembers.
“He taught me how to be funny, actually,” Howard said. “He could make anybody smile. If you were having a bad day, that’s who you went to to give you a good laugh.”
“If he walked, he was sprinting to first. If he routine ground ball, he’s sprinting to first. He led by example,” Coach Casey Marr said. Marr played on the 2006 team with TJ.
“TJ was the guy, he’d pick you up, slap you on the butt and smile at you and say, ‘Hey, it’s alright man. It’s just baseball.'” Lookout Valley Head Coach Lance Rorex said.
To honor him, the 2019 Yellow Jackets have “TJ” embroidered on the back of their caps.
“Oh, it’d make him so proud. He’d be so honored. He would love it, absolutely love it. It just shows how much he really was loved. He was loved by a lot of people,” TJ’s mother Sherri said.
“Our program, it’s all built off tradition,” Coach Rorex said. “We want our guys to kind understand what’s come before them, and TJ was such a big part of our program’s history.”
This year’s team is focused on making their own history, all while playing for TJ.
“It feels like he’s the 10th man out there,” Chandler said.
“He was like a brother to us and to me and to everyone around here,” Howard said. “I think we’re going to play harder than we’ve ever played before for TJ.”
Lookout Valley will officially dedicate the season to TJ during Monday’s home opener against Whitwell. TJ’s father, Troy Gravitt, Sr. will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.