November 15 - Drew Bonner, an inspirational student manager at Fairfax High School and the University of Virginia, passed away in his sleep on Saturday. He was 23.
Despite suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Bonner played Little League as a third baseman until the progressive degenerative disease forced him to give up the game at age 11. By the time he was 14, he was in a wheelchair.
Nonetheless, he persevered with a positive attitude that became contagious to those around him. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout at 13, and in his fourth year as the Rebels’ manager in 2013, Fairfax coach Rick Freeman sent him to the plate on “Drew Bonner Night” against Madison. A video of the at-bat went viral and made national news. His walk up song - “Ridin Dirty” by Chamillionaire, with the opening line, “They see me rollin” - further demonstrated his outgoing personality.
“Drew accomplished so much in his short time through much adversity,” Freeman wrote in a text message earlier this week.
At Virginia, he earned a College World Series ring in 2015 after teaming with another manager, Herndon native Tyler Slate, to oversee the Cavaliers’ video analytics. The team’s coaches and players were quick to credit the work of Bonner and Slate for their success that season.
“If we didn’t have Slate and Drew to man it, there’s no way our coaches would have enough time in the day to use it to its full capability,” pitching coach Karl Kuhn told The Washington Post in June 2015. “If it wasn’t for those two guys . . . we’d have no shot.”
Added Derek Fisher, a member of that 2015 CWS team who won a World Series with the Houston Astros in 2017, earlier this week in a post on Twitter: “This hurts. Anybody who had the pleasure of meeting Drew, I know you’re with me. Jokester. Genius. Damn. Baseball is going to miss you, brother. WaHoowa.”
Bonner earned his bachelor’s degree from Virginia in 2017, served as a Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Goodwill Ambassador, and had been working as a software developer for Group W in Vienna.
A memorial service will be held on Dec. 1 at the Demaine Funeral Home in Springfield. To view Bonner’s obituary, click here.
Photos of Drew Bonner courtesy of Fairfax Baseball and the Bonner family