PORT ALLEGANY — The Port Allegany baseball team takes to the field, each player sporting a black hat with Port’s signature orange and black “G” on the front.
Their gray jerseys and pants, as always, are adorned in school colors, with a cursive “Gators” font on each player’s chest. For the past three weeks, however, the Gators have sported an additional uniform feature.
This one, worn in response to the April 26 tragedy that shook the team and the community, is not visible from the stands.
HOURS BEFORE Junior outfielder Kaden Price and the Gators were scheduled to face league rival Smethport on April 26. The team learned that Kaden’s father, Richard, had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Four days later, as Kaden’s teammates waited to pay their respects, they each left Casey, Halwig & Hartle Funeral Home in Olean with a memorial card.
The Gators capped that night with a 15-4 win at Oswayo Valley. In doing so, each player carried this commemorative card in their back pocket – a gesture which is now a nighttime custom as Port dedicates the rest of their season to the Price family.
“Kaden’s dad was a really big supporter of the program and just a really nice guy; a sincere person,” Port coach Josh McNeil said. “We moved the Smethport game and our game the next day and then we couldn’t really move. We drove the kids to the viewing on Friday, then from Olean we turned around and went straight to Shinglehouse to play.
A gloomy training session replaced the game on the evening of the accident. Afterwards, teammates and coaches took turns visiting the Price house.
“Kaden’s closest friends are a pretty tight-knit group, so they’ve been very supportive,” McNeil said. “Kaden is a good teammate and a good friend to everyone on the team, and some of the juniors and seniors who are close to him were taking it quite badly. They went to his house that night and gathered around him.
On the day of Richard Price’s services, Port Allegany students were dismissed early.
“We used that as a bit of motivation to play harder for Kaden and his family, and they definitely showed it against (OV) that night,” McNeil said. “As things have unfolded over the past two weeks, the kids are still thinking of Kaden and his dad and trying to help as much as they can. They are still playing wholeheartedly for the family.
KADEN Price’s teammates aren’t the only ones to voice their support. When the Gators welcomed Otto-Eldred on May 11, Terror players and coaches sported orange and black ribbons on their hats in support of the Price family.
“I asked the team if we wanted to do something to honor Mr. Price and show our support for Kaden, who many of them are good friends with, and they were okay with that,” said said OE coach Lance Baker. “We let (Port) know what we were doing and why we were doing it, and I think it was well received. It was a good thing to do and the right thing to do, especially with the proximity of some of our children with (Kaden).
Richard Price’s parents, Rich and Patricia, reside at Duke Center, as does his maternal grandfather, Richard Baire. Kaden Price briefly played for Baker two seasons ago when the latter was manager at Port, before the pandemic interrupted the 2020 season.
“(Port) is a small town like Eldred,” Baker said. “It’s nice to see neighboring communities putting aside their rivalries and showing their support. We’re all from the same type of region and we’ve been through similar things, so it’s good to get that support when you’re going through this and show your support when others do.
WHEN THE The Smethport baseball team learned of the accident, the Hubbers soon began planning a tribute for their catch-up date with Port. After a collaborative effort between players, coaches and RAD Graphix at Smethport, a banner in memory of Richard Price was unveiled ahead of Saturday’s game between the Gators and Hubbers.
“We have all these banners that we use for fundraising in right field, but there’s nothing in left field,” Smethport coach Colby Austin said. “Someone suggested we make a banner in memory of Mr. Price. The kids really liked this idea and all agreed, so we went to see RAD Graphix here and it worked wonders for us.
The banner, which featured photos of the late Rich Price – including one with Kaden in a Gator long-sleeved baseball – was revealed upon Port’s arrival as a surprise. After the varsity game ended, the senior Smethport players cut the banner and presented it to Port.
“We have a really good group of older leaders on our team who are really thinking of everyone,” Austin said. “It was an opportunity for them to give back a bit, and they really wanted to do something for the Price family. It made them feel good to be able to do that.
Port beat Smethport, 4-3, to avenge an earlier loss to the Hubbers and keep pace with the Northern Allegheny League run. As the high school baseball season winds down and Port prepares for a playoff push, the Gators are doing it with heavy hearts — and with a reminder in their back pockets of why they’re taking the field every evening.
“I’m proud of my kids and how professionally they handled everything,” McNeil said. “It made them realize that life is short and you don’t know when your time will come, but as long as you’re still here, you might as well do your best in whatever you do.”