Chace Numata, a switch-hitting catcher who played in the Detroit Tigers minor league system, died Monday from injuries he suffered Friday in a skateboarding accident in Erie, Pennsylvania, his family announced. He was 27.
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The Hawaiian-born Numata played 10 seasons in the Yankees, Phillies and Tigers organizations. He played most of the 2019 season with the Erie SeaWolves, Detroit's Double-A affiliate, the Erie Times-News reported. He also had two stints with the Tigers' Triple-A team in Toledo, Ohio.
The SeaWolves' completed their season Monday in Akron, Ohio.
Erie police responded at 2:15 a.m. Friday when a motorist saw Numata in the middle of the street and called 911, according to the Times-News. Capt. Rick Lorah said officers found Numata on the ground and bleeding from the head, the newspaper reported.
Surveillance video from a nearby business showed Numata riding alone when his skateboard suddenly stopped and he fell forward, Erie police Sgt. David Stucke told the Detroit Free Press.
"It appears he just fell on the skateboard and landed headfirst on the ground,” Stucke told the newspaper. “It appears he was unconscious as soon as he fell. He was knocked out.”
No vehicles were involved in the accident, Lorah told the TImes-News.
"Everyone who was around Chace knew there was never a stranger in the room when he was there," Numata's family said in a statement. "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."
In a statement, Detroit Tigers officials said they were "deeply saddened."
"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.”
Jake Rogers, Numata's teammate before being called up to the majors, wrote "Numi' on his hat before the Tigers' 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins, The Blade of Toledo reported.
“Chace helped me get here and his memory will always be with me," Rogers told the newspaper. "(his death) is really tough. I really don’t know what to say. He was a beautiful person, and he brought light into the lives of everyone he met."
In a statement, SeaWolves owner Fernando Aguirre said the team "heartbroken" and praised Numata for his "positive and infectious" personality.
“He made everyone he met feel welcome, and he had a very positive impact throughout the SeaWolves organization and the Erie community," Aguirre said.
Numata was drafted in the 14th round of the 2010 draft, ESPN reported. He signed a minor-league deal with the Tigers in November and played 71 games with the SeaWolves and six with the Toledo Mud Hens. He batted a combined .244 with four home runs and 28 RBIs with both teams.
"The world is a darker place without him," SeaWolves team president Greg Coleman told the Times-News