Tigers' Numata dies following accident

Catcher had been hospitalized after suffering head injury in Erie

Chace Numata played 10 seasons in the Minor Leagues between the Phillies, Yankees and Tigers systems. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | September 2, 2019 4:25 PM

The Numata, Erie SeaWolves, Detroit Tigers and baseball families have suffered a tragic loss.

Minor League catcher Chace Numata has died after being hospitalized for injuries suffered in a skateboarding accident in Erie, his family confirmed Monday.

"It is with deep sorrow that the Numata Ohana announces that Chace Kekoa Kenji Numata, our beloved son, brother, and a friend to all, has passed away on Sept. 2, 2019," the Numata family said in a statement released by Double-A Erie. "Chace was a 27-year-old, switch-hitting catcher from Pearl City, Hawaii that was blessed with the opportunity to professionally play the sport he loved for the Phillies, Yankees, and Tigers organizations for over 10 seasons.

"Everyone who was around Chace knew there was never a stranger in the room when he was there. It didn't matter if you were a professional athlete or young child, he made sure to make everyone feel comfortable and welcomed. His smile was contagious, unrelenting, and never ending, while his personality could light up any environment he would be in. Our family would like to say Mahalo nui loa to everyone who prayed for, thought of, and acknowledged Chace during this difficult time. We heard you and we appreciate you all from the bottom of our hearts! #FORNUMI"

"The Detroit Tigers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chace Numata, who was a catcher for our Double-A affiliate in Erie," the club said in a statement. "Though this was his first year with our organization, Chace was beloved by many from our Major League club through all levels of our player development system. He had an engaging personality that quickly established him as a leader on and off the field, and his presence will be forever remembered in our organization and beyond. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, teammates and coaches."

News broke last Friday that Numata had been found by police officers at around 2:15 a.m. that morning bleeding from the head after suffering a skateboarding accident in downtown Erie. He was hospitalized at UPMC Hamot before dying three days later.

Numata was a 14th-round pick by the Phillies in the 2010 Draft coming out of a Hawaii high school. He stayed in the Philadelphia pipeline through the 2017 season, reaching as high as Double-A Reading. He was a mid-season All-Star for Phillies affiliates in 2013 (Class A Lakewood) and 2016 (Class A Advanced Clearwater).

The switch-hitting backstop signed a Minor League deal with the Yankees prior to the 2018 campaign and spent that season playing for four affiliates before signing as a free agent with the Tigers in November 2018. He spent the bulk of the 2019 season with Double-A Erie, playing 71 games for the SeaWolves and hitting .239/.291/.354 while helping to guide a promising pitching staff that included top prospects Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo. He made his Triple-A debut with Toledo on April 28 and spent six games with the Mud Hens this season.

Erie players -- and others across the Minors -- wore hats with the name "NUMI" on them over the weekend in support of the backstop.

Tigers prospect Logan Shore started a GoFundMe campaign over the weekend to raise money for the Numata family to help pay for travel expenses and hospital bills. As of Monday afternoon, it had raised more than $21,000 with many across leaving memories of respect for Numata on the page's comment section.

"The Erie SeaWolves are heartbroken and deeply saddened by the passing of Chace Numata," the Eastern League club said in its own statement. "Chace was a leader, an outstanding teammate, a friend to many, and his personality was positive and infectious. He made everyone he met feel welcome, and he had a very positive impact throughout the SeaWolves organization and the Erie community. We extend our sympathies to the Numata Ohana and have them in our thoughts and prayers. RIP Chace."

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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