The board of directors for the local athletic association showed its displeasure with a mother’s plea on social media to restore a missing sign commemorating her late son.
The sign, which read “The Brandon Spence Baseball Field,” once hung above Field 2 at the Greater Cleveland Athletic Association complex behind the old Cleveland Elementary School, where Amy Spence’s son often played baseball. Brandon was 14 when he was hit and killed by a truck while trying to cross N.C. 50 on his dirt bike in 2009.
At a meeting Monday, members of the GCAA’s board of directors told Spence that the family could pay to restore the sign if it met a list of conditions. But before making the offer, Brad Faulkner, the board’s treasurer, read a statement drafted by board members expressing their displeasure with Spence’s plea, which resulted in backlash from the community.
“By ... trying to bully us into putting this sign back up, this is quite concerning to us on the board,” Faulkner said. “And this so-called ‘battle’ was a battle against an organization which you supposedly cared about. It’s a battle against our good name, a battle against the kids of this community and a battle against the people in this room.”
The GCAA board said the sign was destroyed in a storm, but some in the community had suspected the organization removed the sign because the field is now used for softball.
Micheal Knott, the GCAA president, said the stern tone of the meeting was to let the Spence family know they felt attacked. He said GCAA members received many emails from the public who blamed them for the missing sign.
“They felt like they had been beat up,” Knott said.
But Spence said that was never her intention and that she did not start a campaign. She told the board she just wanted her son’s sign put back up, because it has meant so much to her since his death.
Organizers of a baseball tournament held at the field – which was approved by the baseball committee at the GCAA – donated the sign to the family and put it up, Faulkner said.
He said the board of directors did not put up or approve the sign in 2009.
Spence said she sent emails to three board members, including Knott, inquiring about the missing sign. When no one responded after a couple of days, she said she sent a follow-up email and did not get a response for another 24 hours.
“Can you understand my frustration, when I emailed three board members and didn’t get a response,” Spence asked.
All three board members said they did not get the initial email and weren’t given enough time to respond.
“We all have full-time jobs,” board member Jamey Gilchrist said.
Spence said losing a son is the worst thing that can happen to a parent and that she didn’t know what to do when she couldn’t get an answer about what happened to her son’s sign.
“I didn’t sleep or eat for three days,” Spence said. “It’s not just a sign.”
The board of directors had a closed-door meeting Aug. 5 and decided to put the onus on the family by giving them three options, which they presented Monday night. The Spence family could either drop the issue, go with a memorial stone around the flag pole commemorating Brandon Spence and other families who lost loved ones, or put the sign back up under certain conditions.
Those conditions included:
▪ Having the sign read “Brandon Spence Field,” dropping baseball from its name.
▪ Keeping the sign no larger than its original size – 4 by 8 feet.
▪ Having the family pay to restore and maintain the sign.
▪ Having the design approved by the board of directors.
▪ Locating the sign in the outfield as before.
▪ Coordinating with the GCAA president a yearly field workday during the beginning of each year to help maintain the field.
“This workday is to help maintain the field so no one in the future can question who you are and whether you are more concerned with the sign than the field where the children of this community play,” Faulkner said, reading from the board’s statement.
Board members also asked for a public apology from the family.
Faulkner said if the family chooses option three, the board would hold them accountable and would take the sign down if they don’t meet the conditions.
Knott said the reason for the three options were so that family would not just put the sign up and not just walk away without maintaining it. He also said the board thought to create a memorial because two other children and a father have died in the past two years.
“No current board members knew this child,” Knott said in an email after the meeting. “I am the only one on the current board that was on the board in 2009. Thus nobody knew who he was and the importance of the sign to the family. So if it is that important then they will take care of the sign and do something each year in his memory. This way he will not be forgotten, they will take care of the sign and let others know by organizing an annual event.”
Spence said she wasn’t happy with the tone of the meeting but would talk the options over with her family.
Clarification: A previous version of this article stated the board of directors donated the sign to the family. The GCAA’s says board of directors did not put up or approve the sign in 2009, but rather organizers of a baseball tournament, which was sanctioned by the GCAA’s baseball committee, put up the sign.