The Vanderbilt players and coaches boarded a bus and traveled to Clarksville to visit with the parents of teammate Donny Everett, who drowned on Thursday. The team planned to visit with the family before returning to Nashville to prepare for its NCAA Regional baseball game against Xavier at Hawkins Field.
David Chester owns a farm next to the Everett home and has known the family for several years. He remembers watching Donny Everett practice pitching against a backstop along the driveway that led to the family home.
Just before noon, Chester said he and his wife had seen a large white bus pull up to the Everett home.
“We’d see the young man out practicing ball all the time. … “From the time he was in the seventh grade on up he was out there,” Chester said. “I sure miss hearing that baseball hit that backstop every day.”
David Chester raises hogs on a farm next to the Everett home in rural Montgomery County. He said the family had lived next door for several years. He remembers watching Donny Everett practice pitching against a backstop along the driveway.
“We’d see the young man out practicing ball all the time. … From the time he was in the seventh grade on up he was out there,” Chester said. “I sure miss hearing that baseball hit that backstop every day.”
In an interview with The Tennessean, Chester painted a portrait of a close-knit family.
He said Donny Everett and his father spent several years working together on an old fixer-upper truck. Chester chuckled as he remembered hearing the noisy muffler when the Everetts were revving the truck up for a test drive.
“They tore the thing down and started working on it piece by piece,” Chester said. “By the time he got old enough to get his license, he had his own truck.”
Chester said he visited Everett’s parents Friday morning.
“They’re tore all to pieces and I can understand why,” he said.
The university is still gathering information, and athletics director David Williams is traveling back from the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla.
In a statement Friday morning, Vanderbilt spokesman Rod Williams said: “We learned last night of the tragic death of Donny Everett, an outstanding young man who exemplified the best of our university. As you can imagine, the team, the athletic department and the university are trying to come to terms with this tragedy. His parents and loved ones are on our minds and in our prayers as we share in their grief.”
Everett just finished his freshman year at Vanderbilt. He was one of the nation’s top high school pitchers and a projected first-round pick in last year’s Major League Draft. But Everett balked on a signing bonus of up to $2.5 million in June 2015 to instead play at Vanderbilt, according to CBS Sports baseball reporter John Heyman.
“My heart just sunk, and my heart goes out to his family,” Clarksville Northeast High baseball coach Dustin Smith said. “Everyone knows Donny and loves him because he’s the most successful pitcher to come out of Clarksville, and they knew that his future was so bright.”
The two Vanderbilt teammates and two friends with Everett have not been identified.
The Coffee County Sheriff’s report said Everett was on the west side of the bridge with one of his friends when he tried to swim across the lake to the east side to join the other three friends.
“Everett got about halfway across the waterway when he began asking for help,” the Coffee County Sheriff’s report said. “All four individuals stated that they thought Everett was ‘just joking around’ because he was smiling and did not seem to be in distress. One person did enter the water and pulled Everett several feet but stated that he is not a good swimmer and was struggling to stay afloat.
“He stated that Everett did not seem to be struggling,” the report continued. “The friend stated that he let go of Everett and swam back to shore still thinking Everett was ‘joking.’ He stated that when he looked back, Everett had gone under and did not re-surface.”
Everett is the second Vanderbilt student-athlete to die in a drowning accident in just over a year. In May 2015, former Vanderbilt basketball player Dai-Jon Parker, 22, drowned in Indianapolis.
Heartfelt messages poured out on social media Friday morning. Dansby Swanson, a former Vanderbilt player and No. 1 draft pick, tweeted, “My heart is completely broken. There are special prayers being said for the @VandyBaseball family. May you rest easy in heaven, Donny.”
Everett was a popular and humble player for the Commodores. As a high-profile high school player and the 2015 Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year, he had relationships with some Vanderbilt teammates long before enrolling at the school.
Jerry Snider, father of Vanderbilt sophomore pitcher Collin Snider, called Everett was “a polite and humble young man with a smile that would light up a room. His size could be intimidating, but he was a big teddy bear.”
Everett, a 6-foot-2, 230-pounder, was a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher who clocked a 97 mile-per-hour fastball on his first pitch at Vanderbilt in mid-April after sitting out the first half of the season with an injury.
Everett was among the top signees in Vanderbilt’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class a year ago. He pitched well once he recovered from his injury and took the mound, logging a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings.
Courtesy of: Tennessean.com