By Kylee Bagley
Early in the morning on January 24, 2016, CCC lost valued alumni, Devin McCann, in a car wreck on I-55 near Brookhaven, Mississippi. McCann was just a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday, but even in death, he remains an inspiration and motivation for many members of both Cumberland County and Belhaven University, where McCann was in his senior year at the time of his passing.
Kellie W. Slade, CCC’s executive director of the Center for Academic and Student Success, was Devin’s “mom away from home.” She met Devin at the new student orientation he attended before his first semester at CCC in 2012. During his time here as a student, McCann was a star baseball player who Slade truly believes could have played professionally. “Devin had a magnetic personality. He loved teaching kids how to play baseball. He was a good natured, sensitive kid whose dream was to be drafterd and play in MLB.
McCann was popular both on and off campus, no doubt due to his continual positivity and ambitious drive. “He would do anything for you without question. He would always volunteer to help out with student life events I arranged. He really matured as a person during his time here.” Slade said.
As for athletics, Coach Keith Gorman looks back on McCann’s time as the Duke’s catcher nostalgically. McCann caught for CCC’s baseball team from 2012 to 2014, thereafter transferring to Belhaven University where he continued his baseball career and unknowingly affected even more lives.
“McCann was a model player. His work ethic was unmatched, both in the weight room and on the field. He was a leader who worked hard and expected the same from the rest of his team,” Gorman says. Not only did McCann encourage his team through his determination and positive attitude, but also by being a diehard Duke. “Devin was our best promoter. He loved the team and was always recruiting promising baseball players to come to CCC and join our team.”
Gorman shared that a month before his death, McCann attended a Duke’s basketball game while home on break to reconnect with old friends on campus. “Despite McCann’s toughness on the field, he was the friendliest kid off. He will always be a Duke.”
Christopher Salvey, currently a student at CCC, was McCann’s best friend and fellow team member. “Devin taught me a lot on and off the field. He taught me to work to the best of my ability no matter what and to live without limitations. He never doubted himself. I’ve never even seen him get really down about anything. Devin was always positive.” Salvey said, trying to put into words his near indescribable relationship with McCann. “I remember one time I had a game; Devin got up at 6:30 AM and came to the field with me to warm up. He threw me ball after ball to help me get in the zone. That’s just what kind of guy he was.” As Salvey continues his studies and begins a new baseball season, he has a simple message for his friend: “I love and miss you every day! Keep watching over me.”
On April 16, the Duke’s held a celebration of McCann’s life at their home game against Northampton Community College. Together, McCann’s parents threw the first pitch in honor of their son. Duke’s baseball team donned stickers sporting McCann’s jersey number, 27, in memory of his infectious attitude and skill. In fact, “27” stickers can even be found on the gear of opposing teams, proving that McCann’s impact will not soon be forgotten.