Meet Virginia Tech's Honorary Starter Chase O'Brien

Meet Virginia Tech's Honorary Starter Chase O'Brien
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics

Ryan Duvall | @RyanGDuvall

TLP: Writer/Baseball Beat Reporter
Feb 19, 2023

“And fans, please welcome tonight’s honorary starter, a four-foot-two guard from Roanoke, Virginia. First grader, Chase O’Brien,” Cassell Coliseum public address announcer Mike Sparrer exclaimed ahead of Saturday night’s victory against Pitt at the end of Tech's starting lineup being announced.

The small, brown haired O’Brien trotted out onto the Cassell floor, high fiving coaches, players, and taking in the cheers of the fans, repping his No. 12 maroon and orange jersey that was signed by every player on the team.

It was a special moment for Chase, and his parents, Eric and Jessica, the special guests at Cassell on February 18.

Chase has been through a lot in his young life, having been diagnosed with cancer at just five-years-old. He was told that he had a pediatric brain tumor, and underwent emergency surgery to resect as much of it as the surgeons could.

“Unfortunately it started to grow back May of 2022 and he’s been going through Chemotherapy treatments ever since. Our last treatment will be June 9th,” said Jessica O’Brien.

But what is the connection to Virginia Tech basketball?

Well, the Carilion Children’s Hospital teamed up with Tech athletics in December to paint shoes for players and coaches with a splash of hope.

The shoes were worn by the men’s basketball coaches on January 28th, when the Hokies took down Syracuse at home. The shoes Chase designed were worn by Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young, who feels a special connection to Chase.

“Fun” is what Chase described painting Young’s shoes as.

Unfortunately, a last minute issue caused Chase to not be able to be at that game leading Mike Young to making a promise that he would be treated by royalty once he was able to come to Blacksburg.

Safe to say, Young and Virginia Tech delivered on that promise on Saturday.

Young joined the family in their pregame presser, surprising Chase by rocking his shoes for a second game. In addition to this, Chase was given the game ball following the victory over Pitt on Saturday, and there was nobody more deserving.

“Toughest guy in the building…dealing with that…to have him here, to be able to recognize him, and bring him into the locker room after a big win, to present him the game ball…pretty awesome day,” said Young after the game in the locker room with Chase alongside him.

So who is Chase’s favorite Hokie?

Well, according to his dad Eric, it is Justyn Mutts, but in Chase’s words, it’s “the big guy.” Eric also noted that the first full sporting event Chase watched was Tech’s February 4 win over in-state rival Virginia.

Chase now holds a special place in the hearts of the Virginia Tech Basketball team. Along with them, the whole Blacksburg community is rooting for Chase O’Brien.