June 21, 2023 818 PM
SCHLEICHER COUNTY — A pitcher for the Alpine Cowboys professional baseball team, Jared Strait, 25, passed away June 9 in a car crash outside of Eldorado, Texas, while on the way to compete in Austin.
According to local newspaper The Eldorado Success, Strait, a passenger, was pronounced dead at the scene by the county justice of the peace at 1 p.m.
The fatal crash occurred on U.S. 190, nine miles west of Eldorado, when the driver of the vehicle fell asleep and struck a mesquite tree, according to the report. The driver was transferred by emergency medical personnel to Schleicher County Medical Center to be treated for non-incapacitating injuries, the report states.
The Texas Department of Public Safety did not fulfill requests to independently confirm the details of the crash to The Big Bend Sentinel by press time.
Kristin Cavness, general manager of the Alpine Cowboys, said various carpools were transporting team members to their game against the Austin Weirdos that day — a regular occurrence in the Pecos League when a bus driver cannot be secured — but Strait was running late so had to catch a ride.
“Every element of this whole story was [a] freak [accident] as far as I’m concerned. [It] just wasn’t supposed to happen, any of it,” said Cavness.
Team Manager Sean Persky stayed with Strait at the funeral home until his family members, who live out of state, were able to fly in. Strait, who was from the Ithaca, New York, area, was participating in his third season with the Alpine Cowboys and lived in town during the summer baseball seasons.
The Alpine Cowboys started their 2023 season in late May. Strait’s team members learned of his death just before their game in Austin, and out of a desire to honor Strait and what he would have wanted, they decided to proceed with competing in the game — and won. Cavness said Strait’s parents, too, believed he would have wanted the team to proceed with the game that day and were supportive of the decision.
Cavness said continuing to play baseball has been a source of healing for the team in the wake of Strait’s untimely death. “Throughout this whole process, every game they play is for Jared, and also it’s just helped them with feeling as a team and pushing forward,” said Cavness.
James Strait, Jared’s father, posted a full obituary on his Facebook page, which stated that his son had been playing baseball since he was three years old, and the sport was a major part of his life. Jared studied computer science at Wells College in Aurora, New York, and served as an assistant pitching coach at the school.
“Jared relished baseball. The strategy of the game, the competitiveness of the play calls, and the overall thrill of pursuing the outs thrilled him,” reads the obituary. “He had so many plans to continue his work with new and existing team players at the collegiate level.”
A memorial for Strait was held at Kokernot Field when the team arrived back in Alpine. Players gathered around the pitcher’s mound, where they placed Strait’s jersey, and the team retired his number, 57 — which is now painted behind home plate. Cavness said Alpine Cowboys’ programs and materials will include Strait’s obituary moving forward.
“He may be missing, but he’s still here,” said Cavness.
She said preachers and counselors have been visiting with the young team for mental support, and that their tight-knit, supportive dynamic and connection to Strait over a love of baseball was helping grieve the loss of a fellow Cowboy.
“They’re very connected as a family and lift each other up,” said Cavness. “I feel like they have a purpose, this actually is very healing in a very positive manner knowing that they’re doing something that Jared absolutely loved to do. This is where he was supposed to be.”