NEW DIANA, TX (KLTV) - Nearly fifty years after his death on a battlefield in Vietnam, an East Texas school will dedicate a baseball field to U.S. Army Cpl. Donny G. Tidwell.
New Diana High School baseball field will be renamed in honor of the fallen soldier from Upshur County at a ceremony scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on March 20. The field is 1373 US Highway 259 in Diana.
Tidwell served in the 3rd battalion, 22nd Infantry. He was killed in action in the early morning hours of April 12, 1968 during the Battle of Good Friday, 13 miles north of the Dau Tieng base camp in the province of Tay Ninh.
A standout high school athlete for New Diana, Tidwell was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 42nd round of the 1966 summer draft. The organization sent Tidwell to the Pioneer Baseball League in Utah, where he pitched for the Oden Dodgers under Hall of Fame coach Tommy Lasorda. Tidwell pitched 101 strikeouts during several no-hitter games that season, records show.
Lasorda is unable to attend the dedication, but released this statement to be read aloud at the ceremony:
"My first championship team was the 1966 Ogden Dodgers. I'll always look at that roster and think of Donny Tidwell. Every player who starts out in pro ball has a dream of playing in the Majors. While several of his teammates eventually played in the Majors, Donny decided there was something bigger than baseball. His decision to enter the Army took courage as he set aside his dream of playing baseball to serve his country. The image of Donny eagerly taking the ball and pitching in a Dodger uniform during the summer of 1966 is something I've carried with me for more than 50 years. I am thankful the community of Diana, Texas continues to honor a true hero and role model."
Tidwell's promising career was cut short when he entered the U.S. Army after just one season. He died four months after arriving in Vietnam, and just 10 days after turning 21 years old.
In addition to renaming the field, a memorial bearing the Dodgers logo and a flagpole have been placed at the site, and a memorial scholarship is available each year to a graduating senior at New Diana High School.
"I think there's been a great partnership between the family and what it is that they envisioned as far as a way to mark the field," said New Diana ISD Superintendent Carl Key.
Tidwell's name is etched onto panel 49E, line 37 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., with the names of 15 others who died alongside of him. He is buried at Maddox Cemetery in Diana.