East Carolina’s Parker Byrd becomes first NCAA D1 baseball athlete to play with prosthetic leg: ‘It’s unreal’


Parker Byrd cemented his name in college baseball history books on Friday. The East Carolina University infielder and pitcher entered the game as a pinch-hitter.

Byrd received a standing ovation from the crowd inside the stadium, who wanted to recognize him for becoming the first NCAA Division I baseball player to compete in a game with a prosthetic leg. Byrd ultimately earned at walk in the at-bat, as ECU went on to defeat Rider University.

Byrd was a highly sought after baseball prospect and graduated from a North Carolina high school in 2022. But a summer boat trip just before Byrd was set to arrive on the ECU campus as a freshman ended in tragedy. 

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An official NCAA baseball sits among some University of Virginia Cavaliers baseball equipment in the bullpen prior to a game against the East Carolina University Pirates at Davenport Field on February 27, 2016. (Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Byrd fell off a tube during the trip. He then attempted to approach the boat, but the ski rope got caught inside the propeller and struck Byrd’s leg, according to multiple reports.

As a result, his right leg had to be amputated. According to ESPN, Byrd underwent 22 surgeries in just 45 days following the accident.

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Earlier this week, Byrd reflected on his path to return to the baseball diamond.

“There’s definitely a lot of steps, and it was a long journey, but with the coaches we have here, they’ve invested a lot of time,” Byrd told reporters on Thursday. “A lot of moments preparing for the season, and I think I’m ready. I can’t wait.”

ECU head coach Cliff Godwin also shared his hope that Byrd would have the opportunity to play in a game this season.

East Carolina head coach Cliff Godwin during a game

East Carolina head coach Cliff Godwin during a game between the Houston Cougars and the East Carolina Pirates at Lewis Field at Clark LeClair Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina, on April 29, 2018. Houston defeated ECU 6-5. (Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Get emotional just thinking about it. It’s going to be special,” Godwin said on Thursday. “I wish I could tell everyone what time it is going to be, what day it is going to be. I hope it is tomorrow.”

Byrd previously mentioned that he would like to see the opposing pitcher throw him a fastball whenever he got the opportunity to step into the batter’s box. Shortly after he made the trip to first base in the eighth inning, Byrd was replaced by a pitch-runner. 

He received another ovation from the fans as he made his way to the dugout, where his teammates gave him a warm reception. 

Flag over ECU baseball stadium

Storm clouds over the stadium before the NCAA Baseball Greenville Regional between the East Carolina Pirates and the South Carolina Gamecocks at Lewis Field at Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina, on June 2, 2018. (Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Byrd expressed gratitude for all the support he received, saying the special moment was “unreal.” 

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“This crowd, these fans, these people, my family, my teammates, coaches, I cannot be more thankful and blessed to have the opportunity I had today. People believing in me, it’s unreal. I really can’t put it into words. It was phenomenal.”

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