Team pays tribute to friend

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Josh Romero of Clovis Scum picks up a grounder during the second inning of the team’s matchup against Clovis’ Los M’s Saturday during the New Mexico USSSA men’s class E state tournament at Guy Leeder Complex. Scum won 23-2.

By Mickey Winfield: Freedom New Mexico

They weren’t hard to spot Saturday at Guy Leeder Softball Complex — a collection of young men wearing lime green jerseys, with “T.F.” printed on towels tucked in their shorts.

The teens formed The Goonsquad, and they were playing for more than just the love of the game. They were also playing for the love of a lost friend.

Tyler Fontenot, 17, was crazy about sports, his friends say, including softball. So this weekend’s softball tournament gave his grieving friends a great opportunity to honor their buddy.

“It was pretty much everybody that wanted to (put the team together) in his memory,” 21-year-old Joshua Montoya said. “Because he liked softball.”

Fontenot and his uncle, Joe Haseloff, 49, disappeared in late May while on a fishing trip in Texas.

A few days later, their bodies were recovered and the autopsy confirmed drowning as the cause of death.

“We miss him and we want him to be remembered forever,” 15-year-old Adrian Loya said.

Their memories live on in each at-bat, out and run recorded.

“We put this team together for Tyler. We play every tournament (for him),” Raul Trujillo, 15, said. “It was pretty tough. I felt like I lost one of these guys. (We were) close, real close.”

The group picked lime green as their jersey color because it was Tyler’s favorite color, and they printed his initials on a rag hanging out of their shorts.

“Since his death, we wanted to dedicate every tournament that we went to for him,” Montoya said. “He’s watching above us.”

When the boys win a game, they march to a dusty home plate and scrawl Tyler’s initials on it to remind themselves who they are playing for.

“(If he was here) he’d be running, laughing, hitting, crying with us,” Juan Macies, 18, said. “He’d be proud of us because we’re out here having fun.”

As of late Saturday afternoon, The Goonsquad had played two games — winning one and losing one. They all say that Tyler, like themselves, was an extremely competitive individual, so they figure winning is the best way to pay tribute.

“If he was out here right now, he’d be giving 110 percent,” 17-year-old Rico Roybal said.