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Spikes to Pay Tribute to Josiah Viera

by on June 14, 2019 11:45 AM

When the State College Spikes take the field for the 2019 home opener on Saturday night, it will mark the start of their first season in five years that Josiah Viera won't be with them in person.

But the Spikes are making sure that their young bench coach, who passed away in December at the age of 14, is always remembered and with them in spirit.

The 7:05 p.m. game between the St. Louis Cardinals' Class A short season affiliate and Phillies' affiliate Williamsport Crosscutters will be Josiah Viera Night, the first of several tributes celebrating a young man the team called "one of the most inspirational individuals the world of baseball."

At the age of 1, Viera, of Schuylkill County, was diagnosed with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a terminal disorder that causes a child to age rapidly. Fewer than 20 people in the United States are diagnosed with the condition, which has an average life expectancy of 8 to 13.

His condition didn't diminish his love for baseball and in 2010 he began playing Little League. Arthritis prevented him from continuing to play after a few years, but his story had spread, including to the Spikes, who invited him to a game in 2013. He immediately became part of the family.

In 2014 he was named honorary bench coach and his spirit and enthusiasm was an inspiration to the team, which won its first New York-Penn League championship that year. Viera became a fixture and welcome friend in the Penn State and State College communities, and with the Spikes, forming strong bonds with coaches, players and staff. 

As bench coach, Viera was in uniform and had his own locker, and offered his advice and encouragement to coaches and players. He was part of the team for another NYPL championship in 2016.

When he passed away on Christmas Eve, tributes poured in not only from current and former members of the Spikes organization, but from many others as well, such as Penn State football coach James Franklin and basketball coach Patrick Chambers.

Saturday night's game will be the Spikes' first opportunity to formally honor Viera, but it won't be the last. It will start with a ceremony to retire Viera's No. 10, the first time in franchise history a number will be retired.

"It is an honor and a privilege to be able to honor our friend and teammate, Josiah Viera, on Opening Night," Spikes General Manager Scott Walker said in a news release. "Josiah will be part of our team forever, and we welcome all fans and members of the Spikes family to join in the celebration of his extraordinary life here at the ballpark on June 15. We also hope that everyone will join us in remembering his legacy throughout the 2019 season and throughout the years to come." 

Viera's grandfather, Dave Bohner, will throw out the first pitch, something Viera did himself on a number of occasions over the years.

Fans will also be asked to join in a pregame moment of silence and an in-game moment of celebration "to emulate the joy he brought to the baseball world."

All season long, the Spikes also will be wearing a memorial patch on their home jerseys — a JV inside a baseball diamond drawn by Viera a few years ago.


The team is developing a permanent memorial for Medlar Field, which will be announced at a later date.

"Beyond the joy that he brought anyone who had the pleasure of being able to call him a friend, Josiah Viera taught us to enjoy every minute that we have," former Spikes President Jason Dambach wrote after Viera's passing. "Being able to be around him every day at the ballpark was an honor and something I will cherish forever."



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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