Lance Modisette introduced himself to much of the Lufkin community and baseball world in the summer of 2017 that will be remembered for years. Sunday night, many of those same members of the baseball community got a chance to remember their fallen Panther.
Hundreds were in attendance for a vigil that included family, teammates, coaches, fans and teachers. The event was held at the Lufkin High School baseball field.
The former national champion on the Thundering 13 and a senior on this year’s Panthers’ squad died in a vehicle crash in Nacogdoches County Friday afternoon.
“It’s hard when you go to work with a kid every day and he’s no longer with us anymore,” Lufkin head coach John Cobb said prior to the ceremony. “He was a phenomenal kid, the type of kid you want to coach. When we met (with the team) earlier, we told stories, we laughed and we cried. I don’t think there was a dry eye in there.”
Denman Avenue Baptist Church pastor Jacob Fitzgerald led prayers for the event and shared the impact Modisette had on the community.
“Every time we see the Lufkin Panthers take the field, our memories will be etched with Lance Modisette,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ll remember what he meant to us.”
Following the ceremony, many of those in attendance gathered around the pitcher's mound, where Modisette’s jersey was on display.
He was remembered by Bud Maddux, the Lufkin icon who coached Modisette and the Thundering 13 in 2017. His memories went back even further than that summer.
“Lance and I first met when he came up to my academy and started taking lessons,” Maddux said. “He was up there every week when he was around 10.
“Then I drafted him on my team in 2017. Of course he made the all-stars that year, and the rest is history. He was a good boy and a hard worker.”
One of his former Thundering 13 and high school teammates, Hunter Ditsworth, shared his memories of a friendship that started around the same time Lufkin was chasing after the 2017 national title.
“When he got on the team, I didn’t really even know who he was,” Ditsworth said. “Then that summer, he started coming over, and we started hanging out a lot. It got to where we were always texting. I never would have thought we would be this close.
“What I remember is us playing video games, and no matter what we played, he wanted to beat me. We’d play MLB The Show. Whatever we played, he wanted to beat me. That’s the type of competitor he was.”
That competitive fire was still going even in a senior year in which he battled through an arm injury.
He got the starting nod during a Lufkin tournament and delivered a complete-game shutout for a 3-0 win over Brazoswood. That proved to be the third win in a season-long five-game winning streak for the Panthers.
“This past year, he was our competition champion,” Cobb said. “Anybody that knows about our program knows that’s huge. These guys all have a huge deal of respect and love for him.”
Ditsworth said he was shocked when he learned the news Friday afternoon.
“It’s just unreal,” Ditsworth said. “My heart dropped when they told me.”
Players and coaches were at the field earlier Sunday to share stories. While most of those in attendance wore Panther purple, family members also had on Dodgers gear, a nod to his favorite MLB team that provided plenty of banter between teammates and coaches throughout his baseball career.
Following prayers at the vigil, the ceremony came to an end in fitting fashion with Lufkin public announcer Justin Burnhauser calling out Modisette’s name at the field one final time.
“Now pitching for the Lufkin Panthers forevermore. Number 17. Lance Modisette!”
Counselors will be available at Lufkin High School starting Monday morning when students return to class for the final week.
Funeral ceremonies are scheduled for 10 a.m. May 29 at Denman Avenue Baptist Church with Brother Steve Cowart officiating. Burial will follow in the Gann Cemetery. Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. May 28 at the church.
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