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A First Pitch in Honor of His Father

Posted April 11, 2018
capture-12Will Shoults

Will Shoults couldn’t remember the last time he threw a baseball. It didn’t stop him from throwing a great first pitch at Tuesday’s Green Up Game between Missouri State and Missouri at Hammons Field in Springfield.

The 13-year-old’s toss was in honor of his father, Dr. Nick Shoults, who became an organ, eye, and tissue donor in 2017 after a tragic mountain biking accident. The first pitch, a moment of silence, and the game gave Dr. Shoults’ family the opportunity to talk about their patriarch’s life and legacy.

“For me, this was a great way to remember him, especially because he was someone who spent his whole career helping someone else and ended his career helping several other people,” said Velvet Shoults, Dr. Shoults’ wife. “And it’s a domino effect, so many people are affected because he said he wanted to do this if something happened to him. It’s such a joy for someone to honor the commitment he made, and the sacrifice we as a family made to make that happen.”

capture-13Missouri State players wore green shirts during warm-ups and the national anthem to raise awareness for organ, eye, and tissue donation.

Dr. Shoults was a general surgeon at Mercy Hospital. He practiced for 30 years in the Springfield community and touched the lives of thousands of patients.  He had a reputation among his colleagues for expecting a positive attitude and focused attention on his patients, especially in the operating room.

He was also known for not being able to say no. He would routinely tell patients to come into the office the next morning, even if there wasn’t a time slot available. “He would make his nurse crazy,” Velvet said. “They would be an hour behind, but he wanted to talk with everyone. He didn’t want them to have to wait for their results.” And his patients loved him. “They made cards, they named cattle after him and made blankets, brought food,” Velvet said of the gifts given to his office after his passing.

Back at Hammons Field, many in the crowd of 3,300 visited with Mid-America Transplant representatives at its registry table to learn more about organ and tissue donation and join the registry. They entered to win a green Missouri State Bears shirt by answering trivia questions or posting a picture to the hashtag #GreenUpGames.

capture-3Before the game, Dr. Shoults’ family met with Missouri State baseball coach Keith Guttin. The conversation represented lives touched by donation in very different ways, yet both had an immense ripple effect on countless lives.

Dr. Shoults became a donor in November of 2017. A month later, Coach Guttin’s daughter saved a friend’s life as a living kidney donor. “This is on the front burner for us,” Coach Guttin said of his family. “She helped a lady, and we’re very proud of her. As soon as this opportunity to partner with Mid-America Transplant came up, we wanted to help.”

Coach Guttin thought the pre-game ceremony was meaningful to his players. “When you’re that young, you usually don’t pay attention to things like that unless it’s an immediate family member,” Guttin said. “I think this really pushed it to the front for them. I think their eyes were opened.”

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