Wyatt Ferris invested years of time and sweat into baseball, but his mother describes him as an unconventional athlete whose interests went far beyond the game.
Ferris, a 17-year-old Denton resident, died Monday after he he was hit and killed by a Union Pacific train near his South Denton home. Police said the train stopped about 100 yards south of the crossing near the 3000 block of Roselawn Drive about 4:30 p.m., and Ferris had gone under the train, according to Denton police spokesman Shane Kizer.
Ferris' family didn't see him after 3 p.m. Monday and filed a missing person report with Denton police later that night.
Investigators and medical examiners still haven't determined whether the death was a suicide, but his mother, Julie Waggoner, said he hadn't shown any outward signs of depression.
"We obviously are suffering for his loss," she said. "He was great kid. We didn't have any recent fights or arguments. There's nothing to indicate that he was unhappy."
Waggoner and her two sons have been living in Denton for two years. As a then-single mother, Waggoner moved to southern China when Ferris was a still young boy. She said she wanted to let her sons experience a foreign culture and "learn to see how other people exist in the world."
Waggoner home-schooled both of her kids abroad, but she enrolled them in public school when they moved to Austin in 2009.
She said Ferris was introduced to baseball that year, and she personally trained him until he sustained a serious head injury in 2014. During that time, he played with several Austin-area select baseball organizations.
Waggoner primarily works as a softball and baseball trainer, and she said Ferris had been one of the top prospects in Texas before he stopped playing after the injury.
"When he was 14, he was playing in the 18-year-old age group," she said. "He suffered a concussion three years ago and had a really hard time coming back from it. He had cognitive behavioral therapy he had to go through as a result of the concussion and started to have anxiety and panic attacks."
After the injury, the family moved to Denton as Waggoner continued their home schooling. They live in the 2000 block of Camellia Street, less than a mile away from the train crash.
Even though the concussion took Ferris away from baseball, he found solace in more unconventional interests. Waggoner said he had loved medieval role-playing games, such as dungeons and dragons, since he was 8 years old. He recently had been active in the gaming community in Denton, she said.
Ferris also participated in recreational sword fights — he had an affinity for 15th-century Italian sword fighting — and worked as a role player in the Scarborough Renaissance Fair in Waxahachie. She said he always had been interested in role-playing games, even in the throes of his short baseball career.
"He wasn't a dumb jock kind of kid," she said. "He was a more intellectual, mental-side-of-the-game kind of athlete."
Most recently, Ferris had been taking college level courses and planned to major in criminal justice at Texas Woman's University, she said.
Waggoner suspects the head injury may have had something to do with his death, but she also said he appeared to have worked through most of the issues.
"He had worked through the headaches and the dizziness and vertigo," she said. "He was [role-playing] again and thinking about maybe coming back to [baseball]."
In the Know
There are several hotlines and websites that offer counseling and resources to help prevent suicide:
Dallas Metrocare Services: 1-877-283-2121