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Dad plays catch with strangers to honor late son

Dan Bryan's 16-year-old son Ethan was killed in a car accident in 2020.
/ Source: TODAY

A Missouri dad is keeping his teen son's memory alive by playing baseball with strangers.

In September 2020, Dan Bryan of Missouri lost his 16-year-old son Ethan in a car crash. Ethan was on his way home from baseball practice.

"It was definitely his love ... he wanted to play on the field at whatever cost," Bryan told correspondent Harry Smith on TODAY. "So if it meant learning every position, that’s what he was going to do."

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Bryan went into a "really dark place" with his grief. "It was a very hard time," he said. However, months after Ethan's memorial service, he stumbled upon the book someone had given to him.

The title and author's name — "A Year of Playing Catch" by Ethan D. Bryan — were uncanny.

 Dan Bryan's 16-year-old Ethan died in a 2020 car accident.
Dan Bryan's 16-year-old Ethan died in a 2020 car accident.TODAY

Bryan was taken by the plot in which the author plays daily games of catch with strangers to make emotional connections.

His first player: Tycen Price, Ethan's best friend who survived the same car accident.

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"I think to both of us, it was something that was more of like a healing process," Price told TODAY. "And it’s turned into something that’s huge — huge — and it’s healed. I think it’s helped so many other people."

Ethan's former baseball coach Bobby Simily feels the same.

"The way Dan’s handled it, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s helped our community heal, it’s helped his classmates heal, his teammates heal," Simily told TODAY.

Bryan, who schedules his games on Facebook, said the tradition is mending the "unspoken pain" of others.

"I feel like I have a job to do. I need to shoulder your pain," explained Bryan. "I needed to help lift that burden. And I’m doing better as a result, and I can help others."