College player returns to action 2 years after losing leg

East Carolina University's Parker Byrd sparks emotional scene in return

February 17th, 2024

Everything changed for Parker Byrd when he was in a boating accident that nearly claimed his life on July 23, 2022. He thankfully survived, but the accident did take something -- his right leg.

Since then, there have been some prominent numbers in Byrd’s life, representing the daunting challenges he’s faced.

Twenty-two: the number of surgeries he had to undergo in the wake of the accident.

Sixteen: the number on his East Carolina University baseball jersey, which he dreamed of donning in a collegiate game.

Byrd, in an incredible feat that gives hope to an untold number of people around the world who have lost limbs or suffered similar adversity, stepped into the batter’s box as a pinch-hitter during the eighth inning of ECU’s 16-2 victory over Rider in its season opener at Lewis Field at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Friday night.

He drew a walk -- a fitting outcome for a man who surely feared he’d never walk again.

Byrd’s inspirational story led to an ad on television in the Greenville, N.C., market that aired during the Super Bowl last Sunday. In it, Byrd discusses his heroic journey.

“I said, ‘Mom, there’s not a D-1 player out there that has a prosthetic leg,’” Byrd remembered.

“And she was like, ‘Well, there always has to be the first.’”

On Friday, that dream became an emotional reality for Byrd and his family, who were in the stands to witness the moment.

Byrd can look back on the arduous path that brought him to this moment, as well as the numbers he saw along the way.

[Editor's note: After this story originally ran, stating that Byrd was believed to be the first NCAA Division I player with a prosthetic leg, a reader emailed to say that Greg Dunn had played with a prosthetic leg at the University of New Mexico in 1988-89 after having an amputation in 1986.]