A jokester who was always laughing.
That’s how Kyle Wright describes his childhood friend, Ryan Coyle.
Growing up in Bellmawr, the pair played baseball and basketball together at Bell Oaks and remained tight during their days at Gloucester Catholic. As Rams, Wright played football while Coyle, a left handed pitcher, stuck with baseball.
After graduating in 2010, Coyle enrolled in Camden County College and played ball for the Cougars.
A little over two years after graduating from high school, Coyle’s life was tragically cut short when he passed away on August 31, 2012 as a result of injuries he sustained from being punched at a concert.
As a way of keeping his friend’s memory alive, Wright wanted to “start something.” So he had t-shirts made up and sold them in Coyle’s honor. The proceeds from the t-shirts were used to raise scholarship money for baseball players from Bell Oaks and Gloucester Catholic.
Because the t-shirts were such a big hit, Wright stepped it up and came up with the idea of hosting an annual softball tournament at the Bellmawr Recreation Center.
The first Ryan Coyle Memorial Softball Tournament was held in 2014. The tournament provided a way of raising even more money for the scholarship fund and also brought people together to celebrate Ryan’s life.
Prior to the start of the 2014 tournament, the Babe Ruth field was dedicated and renamed the “Ryan W. Coyle Memorial Field” as a further tribute to Ryan and his passion for the sport and also for the many games he played there.
This year’s tournament took place on August 6. Since the first games were played in 2014, the tournament has grown larger and has garnered more support. The first year of the tournament, there were 11 teams registered to play. This year, there were 20 teams and games were played at two locations – at the Bellmawr Recreation Center and on the Anderson Avenue field.
Wright said: “[This year] was the best by far. Everything went very smoothly and we had a great time remembering Ryan. My team ended up winning the noncompetitive bracket.”
Before the start of this year’s games, Ryan’s parents, Ginny and Dennis Coyle, joined their son-in-law, Mike Ryan, in a moment of prayer.
Bellmawr’s own, AJ Gonzales, was an honored guest who was invited to throw out the first pitch. Wright introduced AJ as Bellmawr’s next “rising baseball star.”
Rhian Schofield sang that National Anthem.
Saturday’s tournament raised about $7,000. Gloucester Catholic’s Eric Grafton is one of this year’s recipients and additional scholarships are expected to be awarded to seven students from Bell Oaks.
Wright was humbled by the level of support shown for the tournament and expressed his thanks: “This day is very special to me and my friends, as well as Ryan’s family. The past two years when I get up here and talk about Ryan, I usually get emotional but I know Ryan wouldn’t want us all standing around crying. He’d much rather us be drinking beer and having fun. So, let’s celebrate Ryan’s life today and keep his memory alive.”
To see more photos from the day, click below:
Posted by South Jersey Observer on Saturday, August 6, 2016