Schuckman: QND’s retirement of No. 5 puts love of family, love of baseball on full display


Quincy Notre Dame officially retired Tucker Tollerton's No. 5 before Friday's game against Sherrard at Ferd Niemann Jr. Memorial Ballfield. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Tears were expected Friday afternoon, but the smiles elicited by the memories of Tucker Tollerton and the embrace his family received balanced everything out.

That was as much of a tribute to Tollerton as seeing his jersey number retired.

Anyone who accompanied the Quincy Notre Dame baseball team on last season’s record-setting journey could see it was the late center fielder who balanced out the Raiders.

His speed was the perfect counterpoint to the middle of the lineup’s power. His errorless play in center field worked perfectly with the ability of right-handers Jake Schisler and Tyler Dance to consistently throw strikes. His spirit and can’t-rein-me-in attitude convinced those who took the game seriously to play it with a little more exuberance.

It wasn’t just one aspect in which Tollerton made the Raiders better. It was every aspect.

That’s what the No. 5 that now hangs on the right-center field fence at Ferd Niemann Jr. Memorial Ballfield signifies. It speaks of passion and persistence and serves as a memory of a gamer and his grit.

Tollerton died last May following an automobile accident outside of Hannibal, Mo., just hours after the Raiders won the Class 2A sectional championship against Gillespie. In the midst of their grief, the Raiders plowed forward and finished the journey, taking third at the Class 2A state tournament and winning a school-record 36 games.

Friday, a new season began but not before the QND baseball program remembered the teammate they lost.

With Tollerton’s father, Rob, and his mother, Vicke, as well as dozens of family members in attendance, his No. 5 was officially retired prior to the game against Sherrard. His parents were each presented with a framed No. 5 jersey and four of his teammates for last year’s team — Brady Kindhart, Mason Winking, Jack Linenfelser and Tyler Dance — unveiled the sign in right-center field that reads “TUCK” with the No. 5 below it.

As a tribute to Tollerton was read, tears fell and some of the heartache his family and friends have dealt with for nearly 10 months was relived. Then came the hugs and Tollerton’s mom receiving a rose from each of his former teammates in attendance and several of their moms.

Then came the smiles.

Tollerton’s sister, Camry, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, receiving a high-five and a hug from QND coach Rich Polak after delivering a strike. Stories were shared. His cousins ran around and played the way young kids with boundless energy tend to do.

Shortly thereafter, the game started and the day became about baseball.

Tollerton would have liked that. Baseball was his passion, and the John Wood Community College teammates he never had the chance to play alongside gathered behind home plate and watched the game unfold. They eventually headed off to prepare for their Saturday doubleheader against Lincoln Land Community College.

They only knew Tollerton through recruiting, but once he signed his national letter of intent with the Trail Blazers, he became family. And in times of joy and moments of sorrow, family members stand by one another.

That’s what made last season’s run by the Raiders so special. They were a family.

Friday, love of family and love of baseball were on full display.

That will be the legacy of No. 5, a player who brought those two loves together.

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