Field to be dedicated to slain Thomas Dale grad
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Apr 4, 2014, 09:37
CHESTERFIELD — Thomas Dale High School is set to honor one of its own next week as it dedicates its newly improved baseball field to Matt Gwaltney, a 2001 graduate who was killed in the Virginia Tech massacre.
It will be a bittersweet moment for family and friends, as the dedication April 10 comes just before the seven-year anniversary of his death.
Gwaltney, who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Virginia Tech, was just a few weeks away from getting his master’s degree when fellow student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others on April 16, 2007.
Gwaltney had been a pitcher for the Thomas Dale baseball team and he was also a sports reporter for the school’s “Knightly News.” He was an honor student and also a basketball player.
Thomas Dale High School Athletic Director Steve Davies said he didn’t know Matt Gwaltney but has gotten to know his father, Greg Gwaltney Jr., who is part of a committee involved in the field improvements.
Davies said his father, Thomas J. Davies, taught Greg Gwaltney when he attended Thomas Dale years ago. The gym was named for the longtime English teacher and basketball coach in 2010.
“When the gym was named after my father, Mr. Gwaltney was one of the big proponents of that, so it’s kind of come full circle here,” Davies said.
Davies has heard lots of stories about Matt from friends and coaches.
“It’s the type of kid he was. His humor here was legendary. He really wasn’t a star player. He was more of a role player. He always knew how to break the ice before a big game. His work ethic, his dedication at Thomas Dale, it’s legendary,” Davies said.
A memorial plaque was just recently installed on the Thomas Dale home dugout in honor of Matt Gwaltney. Davies said the plaque resembles one from the Baseball Hall of Fame with gold lettering on a dark brown background.
The improvements at the field also include a new 18-by-6-foot electronic scoreboard and a new backstop. The numbers on the old scoreboard was something like you would see in the 1920s that had to be changed by hand. The backstop was rusted. They also worked to seed and improve the playing surface.
All of the upgrades were paid for by the Chesterfield Public Education Foundation with contributions from the community.
“The improvement of the baseball field is just extraordinary,” Davies said.
A future goal is to add a walkway to the softball field to make it look more like a complex.
The field dedication ceremony will be held at 3:30 p.m. April 10 at Thomas Dale’s home game versus Meadowbrook High School. The game starts at 5 p.m.
Those interested in contributing money to the field improvements can make checks payable to the Chesterfield Public Education Foundation and mailed to Matt Gwaltney Field Fund c/o CPEF, P.O. Box 3883, Richmond, VA 23235. FOr more information, visit https://cpefound.org.