A mother and a community are upset because a sign that once hung over a baseball field honoring the mother’s late son is now gone.
Amy Spence said the sign, which read “The Brandon Spence Baseball Field,” was dedicated to her family in 2009 by the Greater Cleveland Athletic Association shortly after her son died in a dirt bike accident. He was 14.
The sign hung above Field 2 at the GCAA complex behind the old Cleveland Elementary School off Cleveland Road in Johnston County, where Brandon often played baseball.
Spence said her youngest son went to a field nearby to practice recently and noticed the sign was no longer there. She said she doesn’t go to the field often, so she doesn’t know when it disappeared.
The sign’s fate was initially a mystery. Rumors circled amongst members of the Cleveland community on social media about what happened to the sign and when it disappeared.
Some suspected it was removed. Others said it was destroyed in a storm.
“Whether it was removed on purpose or damaged, we were never notified the sign was down,” Spence said.
Spence emailed the vice president of the association’s board and asked why the sign was removed. The increased attention from community members caused members of the GCAA, an all-volunteer organization, to move fast.
The GCAA said the organization determined the sign was destroyed in a storm.
“During our investigation a parent volunteer discovered the sign broken on the ground sometime in the winter/spring of 2014-15 after a storm,” the GCAA board of directors said in a statement. “The volunteer picked up the pieces and placed them next to the post where the sign was hanging. At some point thereafter someone, either another volunteer or our grounds crew, threw the sign away.”
The GCAA said its current board members were unaware of the sign and did not know it was missing until someone asked about it in June.
About 25 supporters of the sign being replaced showed up to a closed door meeting Wednesday evening, wearing shirts bearing Brandon’s name. They waited outside the doors holding fliers and passing them out to members of the GCAA as they walked their meeting.
Spence said she would like for the sign to be replaced, but that decision lies at the hands of the board of directors. Their next meeting will be Aug. 17.
The board will consider replacing the sign or creating a memorial plaque that would give the family and other families, who were part of the GCAA, an opportunity to have a memorial for their families.
“I think that’s fine,” Spence said, in reference to the offer to create a memorial, “but that doesn’t take the place of a sign that designates the field was named after Brandon.”
Brandon Spence was crossing N.C. 50 near McGee Road when he was hit by a truck on April 20, 2009. He died from internal injuries.
Spence said she was hurt when she learned the sign was gone and that there was a possibility it wouldn’t be replaced. She said she’d rather have the sign big for all to see, so that people will ask: “Who was Brandon Spence?”
“It’s just a little piece that let’s people know that when they look at that sign, they remember Brandon,” Spence said. “Because it’s a parent’s worst nightmare that their child dies. But their second worst nightmare is that people will forget.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the GCAA’s public meeting will be on Aug. 17. The meeting will not be open to the public.