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Remembering Shane Foster

ShaneFoster greets Joey Warthling during 2010 Class B title game.

Photo contributed by Foster family

Joey Warthling will never forget crossing home and the first person to come running out of the dugout to greet him was his childhood friend-Shane Foster.

It was June 3,2010. Jesse Zellner had just hit a screaming line drive to plate Warthling with what turned out to be the winning run, as the Tonawanda Warriors defeated Falconer, 2-0, to win the Section VI Class B championship on a rainy day at Sal Maglie Stadium. It was the Warriors first sectional title in 27 years.

“Zellner ripped one down the third baseline. The third baseman made the play and I beat it out,” Warthling recalled.

“Next thing I know Shane sprinted out of the dugout. He was screaming. I was screaming. We were all fired up.”

That was Shane Foster. Always smiling and always into the game.

The Warriors will do their best to win one for Shane this Friday when they host Holland in the first Shane Foster Memorial Game to honor Foster who died suddenly on March 9. He was just 24.

The game is slated to start at 5p.m., with a pre-game ceremony (4:30) that will include Warriors coach John Frank presenting a framed Tonawanda No.1 jersey to the Foster family. Shane’s older brother, Scott Foster, is expected to throw out the first pitch. Frank said the memorial game is the team’s way of supporting the Foster’s by letting them know how much Shane meant to everyone.

“We’re here for you,” Frank said. “Nobody knows what they are going through personally but at the same time you want them to know that you’re there to lend any support that they might need. If it’s something as simple as playing a game in his memory. If we can honor Shane’s life, especially on the ball field. Just something so small that we can do for them that if it helps-we’re happy to do it for them.”

This close-nit program is symbolic of the togetherness in the City of Tonawanda. When you’re in trouble, friends drop everything to be by your side. The Warriors have held similar memorial games in the past for people close to their heart. Chris “Mr. Tonawanda” Slauson, the ultimate booster of Warrior athletics and Tonawanda in general. And Michael McInnis, a devoted team dad who was also a strong presence in the Tonawanda Football Clinic.

While the deaths of Slauson and McInnis deeply impacted the Warriors, Foster’s passing has shaken everyone to their core. Primarily because he was so young and was the first player Frank has had to say a final goodbye to.

“These boys are like my own kids. I treat ’em all the same,” Frank said. “They’re part of a family. They’re a close-nit bunch of guys that spend every single day together for three and a half months. These boys are family.”

Childhood friend and teammate Brian McCarthy, who now coaches the THS modified baseball team, said his squad will be in attendance. Because he feels it’s important for the younger kids to know who Shane Foster was.

“There’s so many memories that come to mind. A real competitor. He hated to lose no matter what it was. If we were playing co-ed volleyball, soccer, floor hockey, basketball. You name it he hated to lose. I’ll never forget. Our senior year we were playing Alden and we were in the middle of a race for the (ECIC IV) division title,” said McCarthy, who played catcher.

“It was a cold day. It was a close game, but it was a high scoring game. Shane was throwing and he had to have thrown over 120 pitches that day. I remember coach Frank coming out and trying to talk him off the mound. Shane absolutely refused to give up the ball. Nope. This is my game. I’m not coming out.”

Foster gutted out the rest of the game and the Warriors went onto win the league title again.

Both members of the THS Class of 2011, Warthling said Shane Foster had a one in a million personality. He was the kind of person you felt lucky to have as a friend. The kind of kid who could always make you smile.

“He was definitely the kind of kid who walked into a party and lit up everyone’s faces,” Warthling said. “He had a smile you couldn’t replace.”

That was Shane. He was that one kid that everybody liked. You could search every corner of Tonawanda High School and there wasn’t one person-student or adult who had a bad thing to say about him. Shane wasn’t just a nice guy. He was the kind of guy who would made that extra effort to say hi to the kid who felt left out. Not because he felt sorry for them, but because that’s who he was.

“I can remember specifically two or three kids that nobody ever really would have talked to, but Shane, whether it be in gym class or in a study hall, he would go over to these kids,” McCarthy said.

“He was a friend to most of them. He went out of his way to do that stuff.”

Warthling echoed McCarthy’s thoughts by saying Shane was always kind to others because that’s just who he was. A genuinely good person with a heart as big as all outdoors.

“Everyone in the school was friends with Shane Foster,” Warthling said. “Everybody knew him, everyone liked him. Everyone got along with him. Anyone could go up to him and talk to Shane about anything. He was the kinda of guy that no matter what clique you were in you got along with Shane Foster. Like I said, if you came to a party he lit up the place. If you were sitting in the corner by yourself or you were the most popular person-everyone got a long with Shane.”

Upon hearing the news of Shane’s passing, Josh Barber, who now coaches THS girls bowling, wrote a touching Facebook message. Barber said that he and Foster never really traveled in the same circle of friends-but Shane was always kind to him. When some people teased Barber for being so studious, Shane let Barber know it was ok to be himself. When others poked fun at Barber’s sport of choice, Shane congratulated Josh on the bowling team making states.

McCarthy said that Shane’s passing resonated so deeply, not only within their core of friends, but the community as a whole, because of his kindness and the impact he had on other lives during his all too brief time on this planet.

“You see the Facebook posts and all of the Instagrams and all of the people that showed up to the wake and funeral,” McCarthy said, “and all the kind words that were said about him. All those photos-he was smiling from ear-to-ear.”

They say the true worth of a person’s life is measured by the number of lives that they have touched for the better. Shane Foster made a lot of lives better just by being himself.

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