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Gut-wrenching question: The story of the Brad Holt Memorial Tournament

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Brad Holt

Ron Holt asked himself a gut-wrenching question after his son died in a car wreck.

Would anyone remember his son, Brad, a couple years after the shock of the accident wore off?

Brad Holt had just graduated from Stillwater High School in 1991 and was committed to play baseball at Cowley Community College. Because of a rain out, instead of playing in the American Legion Baseball finals, Holt went to Tulsa with his brother and close friend. During the 3 a.m. drive back, the driver of the vehicle fell asleep and veered into the center median, throwing Brad’s body out of the car. He died on impact; his lifeless body cradled first by his brother.

“It was very tragic what happened that day,” Mike Brown said.

Brown, a three-year starter at catcher for Stillwater, counted Brad as a little brother and eventually passed the catching torch to the kid who was always hanging around the team.

“Brad was the guy that everybody (on the team) took care of because he wasn’t entitled, he didn’t think he was better, he didn’t think he was cool, he just wanted to hang around us and do that stuff,” Brown said.

The year after Brad’s death, the Hanner-Sharp American Legion Post 129 renamed its tournament in Brad’s memory.

“If (the tournament) had Brad’s name on it, we wanted it to be something special that people would remember and want to be a part of,” Ron said.

The Brad Holt Memorial Tournament has been a gem among other summer baseball tournaments for over a quarter century. It has hosted seven-time MLB all-star Matt Holliday and Oklahoma State University pitching great Pat Hope.

The Holt’s tournament separates itself by selling commemorative programs, t-shirts and giving away raffle prizes courtesy of generous sponsors. All proceeds from this year went to Guthrie High School baseball and the Brad Holt Memorial Scholarship fund.

Along with all the great things the Brad Holt Memorial Tournament provides (with the concession stand’s homemade cinnamon rolls being near the top of the list), the tournament offers a greater value for Ron and his wife Becky.

“(Brad’s) death was July 4 and we have this tournament around this time so that takes our mind off what we would probably be sitting around thinking about,” Ron said.

The Oklahoma Dirt Bags, a team from Stillwater, won the 2021 Brad Holt Memorial Tournament last weekend at Squires field in Guthrie with a 3-0 record and run differential of plus 26.

The tournament that is so precious to the Holt family and everyone involved almost folded when several teams dropped in the days leading up to the event. Guthrie High School baseball coach Casey Porter wasn’t going to let it happen.

Porter quickly called other coaches and helped get enough teams to play.

“It’s real simple (why I did that),” Porter said. “There’s 25 Holt family members all down there getting together and celebrating Brad. It’s that simple. This is a celebration of Brad’s life and the Holt family gets to do it every year and its very important that we keep doing it every year.”

Porter played on the same Stillwater baseball team as Brad Holt and the two were close friends.

“We grew up going to church together, playing ball together, playing ball against each other, we were family from the time we were four,” Porter said. “The Holt’s and the Porters are family.”

Porter said he feels a large responsibility to share his former friend’s legacy with the young men on the Guthrie High School team he coaches. He said his team appreciated Brad Holt’s story and the legacy he left behind.

“I’m a history teacher, so history and nostalgia are big to me,” Porter said. “One of the coolest things about this was when I called these coaches, one of the first things they asked was ‘Who was Brad Holt?’”

Porter got the joy of sharing Brad Holt’s legacy with coaches and youth all while joining in the celebration of his old friend’s life.

The answer to Ron Holt’s painful inquiry is clearer than ever 30 years after his son’s death.

“This whole tournament and everything Ron and Becky have done with the memorial has changed some of that tragedy into a triumph,” Brown said.

sports.ed@ocolly.com