COLORADO SPRINGS — Steve Collier would've loved the weather on May 27, 2021. It was perfect baseball weather.
That was evidenced by Widefield and Palmer both having a little jump in their step as they took the field at the Widefield Community Center field, getting ready to play a Colorado Springs Metro South League game. They were also saying their own goodbye to Collier.
The longtime area coach and his two sons, Josh and Mason, were tragically killed last October in an automobile accident on I-25. They were making the southward trip to Arlington, Texas to attend the World Series. They were a baseball family and they wanted to watch the pinnacle of baseball games of America.
Their deaths sent shockwaves through the local baseball scene. Collier loved the game and more importantly, loved teaching kids how to play the game. If there is a better physical example of what a high school baseball coach is supposed be, it wouldn't be easy to find.
"When he left Palmer he called me and told me he thought I was perfect for the job," Palmer coach David Mills said. "We talked about the program and doing things for kids. Coaching the right way. That's what he was all about."
Collier left Palmer and eventually wound up as an assistant at Widefield. When the two teams met on Thursday, they knew they had to bond together and pay tribute to man who meant a lot to both programs. A man who meant a lot to Colorado Springs baseball and Colorado Springs kids.
His wife, Becky, and his daughter, Emily, threw out the first pitches of the games and were honored his jersey prior to the start of the game. The loss of Collier and the boys will always be felt, but there was no hiding the pride and happiness that came with knowing just how much they were appreciated by the baseball community.
"The loss was huge and my daughter and I deal with that every day," Beck said. "But the celebrations are things that remind us that they were fantastic people."
And just like it has been through so many aspects of life, baseball has been a tool to help heal and push forward. Collier himself liked teaching life lessons through baseball. He thought it was an applicable way to teach kids about life and the proper way to go about it.
"It's always there," Becky said. "There are a lot of life lessons to learned out here. Baseball is, as my husband would say, a thinking man's game. There is a lot of downtime to do some thinking about different decisions that have been made in the game. You can always count on (the game). You can always count on your bat, ball and glove to be there and to be played with."
The Widefield players had to figure that out. For them, everything from March to October felt like an inning had completely broken down. After the cancellation of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, they were anxious for their next opportunity to get on the field.
Then the accident happened and just made a bad year all that much worse. But they had to find a way to pick up the bat, ball and glove and play.
"We had to remember to play together as a team," senior Tyler Becker said. "Teamwork is what helps us stick together right now and he was the one always preaching that."
This group of kids will always have his words to live and play the game by. Together, they strapped on black bands with Collier's initials on them and took the time to remember just how much he meant to them and high school baseball throughout the area.
"They loved playing for him," Widefield coach John Sanchez said. "I loved having him here. I had known him for nine years, we actually worked together. It's a little more than just baseball."
But make no mistake, Collier loved baseball. He would've loved seeing Widefield, the last team he donned a uniform for, get a 6-3 win over Palmer. It was the first win of the season for the Gladiators.
On the day they honored a coach that meant so much to both teams taking the field, the Gladiators could think of no better way to celebrate him.
They played ball.