HOUSTON (AP) — Kelly O'Bryan Hoes was just 15 when he was killed by a drunk driver while crossing the street.
Houston right fielder L.J. Hoes never met Kelly, the uncle with whom he shares a middle name. Kelly died after being struck in front of L.J. Hoes' father Jerome, then 17, on May 22, 1976, almost 14 years before he was born.
But the elder Jerome (L.J.'s name is also Jerome — L.J. stands for little Jerome) made sure his only son knew all about Kelly and the special person he was. When the brothers played high school sports together Jerome wore No. 82 and Kelly wore No. 28.
On Tuesday when Houston hosts the Yankees, L.J. will make his opening-day debut and he'll proudly wear Kelly's No. 28 when he starts in right field for the Astros.
"I wanted to meet him and be able to talk to him, but I didn't get that opportunity," L.J. said. "My way of honoring him is being able to wear his number and you can't do any better than honoring someone you love."
Kelly was a talented baseball player and played a game the day of the accident. Jerome had a track meet and the pair along with several other friends met up afterward to hang out. It was a great night filled with talk of future plans set to music by Parliament Funkadelic.
Soon someone had the idea they should all go pick up their girlfriends. Kelly stepped out of the car to walk over to the house to get his and never saw the speeding car without its lights on coming over the hill.
"It hit him as he was in the crosswalk and carried him on the grill of the car for several feet and then slammed on its brakes and Kelly was thrown into the street," Jerome said.
Jerome waited with his dying brother until the ambulance arrived. He would live until he got to the hospital, but only for a short time. Jerome said the driver was a 16-year-old, who just got his license and was drunk and high at the time of the crash. Jerome said he was charged as a juvenile with vehicular manslaughter but isn't sure how much time he served.
Years later when L.J. was born he gave him Kelly's middle name and made a conscious decision to make sure he knew about the uncle that was taken away far too soon.
"I wanted to pay tribute to him too so that Kelly could continue to walk in this life and be memorialized through my child," Jerome said.
From a very young age he regaled his son with stories about Kelly and L.J. quickly developed a bond with him.