In a town crippled by grief, the healing power of a perfect pitch – Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts 2022-06-20 19:06:51 –

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“I don’t want to use the word’fun’, but I want to see the kids happy again,” he said.

Two baseball players follow a ceremony on June 16, 2022 in honor of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shootings in Uvalde, Texas. Callahan O’Hair / New York Times

Uvalde, Texas — Young people in refreshing Little League uniforms ran up and down the field with dazzling expectations. Riding on the breeze of a hot summer night, the scent of nachos cheese and sizzling chicken fajitas spread to Bleachers.

It was a memorial month in Uvalde, Texas. Twenty-one funerals were held in 17 days following the shootings at Robb Elementary School. Last weekend’s Little League All-Star Championship was an event that Yuvalde was proud to host and looked like the next victim. Of the 19 children killed, 6 were on the team. Nobody wanted to compete and didn’t cheer.

But then they thought again. Maybe baseball was exactly what they needed.

“I don’t want to use the word’fun’, but I want to see the kids happy again,” said Cody Gardner, whose nine-year-old son Jage was eager to play the ball. .. “Baseball has always connected us. There is still overwhelming sadness and a little sense of normality.”

On Thursday, they paused to honor the dead at the opening ceremony in the city of the Yuvalde Sports Complex, handing out jerseys and baseball to each of the six families who lost their players. JJ Suarez, president of the Yuval de Little League, went down the line of 20 relatives and hugged each one in turn.

First, there was a 21-second silence. Then, the deep voice of announcer Wade Carpenter echoed throughout the field.

“We are strong against Yuvalde. Let’s play the ball!” He said.

The hugs will be exchanged following the victory of the Uvalde Little League team on June 17, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Callahan O’Hair / New York Times

And so players fanned across four baseball diamonds, thrown balls, ran the base, and set their sorrows aside in America’s favorite entertainment arms for hours. rice field.

Leticia Rodriguez, 61, smiled bitterly when she saw the children and their parents in a long line to taste the fajitas cooked next to the kiosk.

“In a small town like this, there’s not much to do. We only got baseball,” said Rodriguez, whose 18 grandchildren all played in the Ubaldi Little League. “We had to come back for the children. We had to.”

Summer tournaments rarely happened. Yuvalde was chosen as the venue for the regional tournament this spring, but the shooting on May 24 gave the Yuvalde Little League a privilege to host more than 620 children aged 4 to 15 years. I considered transferring it to another town.

However, Matthew Hughes, a board member of the league played by her daughter, said that almost everyone they spoke to agreed to move forward, including the parents of the fallen team player.

“I contacted several counselors in the town and asked them,” What do you think? ” They said that part of the healing process is to bring people back to a level of continuity, a level of regularity as quickly as possible, “Hughes said. “In my opinion, we are holding this tournament for all of them.”

Suarez, who has been in the league for 20 years last week, helped place portraits of six fallen players on the wall of the dugout. Each poses in a Little League uniform with a bat. , Tess Mata, Eliahna Torres, Alexandria Rubio, Jose Flores Jr., Makenna Elrod. When Suarez reached the last one, he noticed tears flowing on his face.

A player has a ball named Jose Flores, one of the victims of Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas on June 16, 2022. Callahan O’Hair / New York Times

“It’s hard to handle,” he said.

Some parents wrestled with whether moving forward was the right decision. “You feel selfish, do you know?” Said Erica Bueno, whose nine-year-old son Joaquin joined the All-Star team. “When there is so much pain in this town, it returns to normal.” She paused and added, “You feel sick trying to be happy.”

Two days before the tournament, Bueno watched with joy and anxiety when Hoakin tried to catch the ball during a practice match. She said the boy who played on the same team as Xavier looked fine, but it was still difficult to determine what the boy of his age was thinking.

When they attended Xavier’s funeral a few days ago, she said, especially after seeing his friend lying still in an open casket surrounded by flowers and Little League souvenirs. , Xavier struggled with his feelings.

“He asked,’Mom, why does someone do this,'” she said. “I tried to explain that there is evil in this world and that some people make evil choices. It is difficult for them to understand the meaning of death.”

Her eldest daughter, Isabella Bueno, 12, also played Little League, and had a harder time accepting what had happened. She was a close friend of Makena’s sister, and it was not uncommon for young girls to tag together when they got together.

“They were all part of the same group of friends,” Bueno said. “They were all really close.”

In the days following the killing, Isabella “shut down” and wouldn’t leave the room, her mother said. Bueno added that she improved Isabella’s mood by meeting her teammates again, or at least distracted her from her pain.

Another Little League player, Kyla Sanchez, 13, said it was painful but necessary to return to the field. She wore a maroon Yuval de Little League T-shirt and she took some time to study the portraits of her deceased friend. Kyra was also near Makena, who posed in a batting stance for her portrait. Kyra said she couldn’t really erase Makena’s sweet smile.

“She always rushed to me and hugged me,” Kayla softly said. “I just support her.”

Kayla’s mother, Cheryl Sanchez, who is also a board member of the league, accompanied her to make sure she was compatible. “We believe that bringing children together is the best healing process,” Sanchez said.

Suarez has lost her friend. Joe Garcia, who has known since his high school days, had a fatal heart attack two days after his wife Irma Garcia and another teacher, Eva Millerez, were killed in the slaughter. Joe met Irma in high school, and since then they have been inseparable, Suarez recalled. High school friendship is passed down to the next generation. Suarez’s two children are friends with Garcias’s four children, who are now orphans.

“He died of a broken heart,” Suarez said of his friend. “He is also a victim of this tragedy.”

At the opening ceremony on Thursday, the Little League International Organization awarded the 2022 Karl E. Stotts Little League Community Award and a $ 5,000 grant to the Ubaldi Little League in recognition of the group’s deep community contributions.

The Ubaldi Junior League, ages 12-14, then played against a team in Jourdanton, Texas. Uvalde won 10-5 in a fierce contest that followed midnight.

On Sunday, one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament, a Suarez softball team between the ages of 10 and 12 played against rivals from Divine, Texas.

The first mood was solemn and there was another period of silence for the dead. However, after that, the Yuvarde players jumped into the familiar chanting. “Where we go, people want to know who we are,” they exclaimed. “We are Yuvalde, mighty, mighty Yuvalde!”

The team proved unstoppable and scored 23 runs in Divine’s 3 by the top of the 3rd inning. By the end of the game, they had celebrated a 25-6 victory. “A great effort from you,” Suares told the girls. “Everyone gave me 100%.”

A baseball player throws the ball on June 16, 2022, after a ceremony in Uvalde, Texas, to honor the victims of the Robb Elementary School shootings. Callahan O’Hair / New York Times

Throughout the week of games and practice sessions, much of the time was spent recollecting. Suarez’s daughter, Willa Suarez, 13, remembers her friend Eliana, who was named an honorary All-Star in a Sunday match. Willa said Eliana always had her smile on her face. She said, “She was always a team player. After every match, she will win or lose, or she will say” it’s a good match. ” “

According to Willa, one of Eliana’s last runs continued to play in her mind, like a slow-motion video. It was over a month ago and Eliahna was playing for the opposing team.

Willa remembered seeing Eliana standing there, waiting for the ball, and holding a bat in her hand. Then contact us. “She recorded her amazing hit,” Willa said.

Eliana dashed towards first base and then towards second base. When the next batter hit, Eliana “saw a chance,” recalled Willa and sprinted home. One of Willa’s teammates caught the ball and hit darts towards Eliana, but she slipped into the home plate. “It was a close call,” Willa recalled. “But she was called safe.”

Eliana was looking up grinning, Willa said. The crowd erupted with cheers and applause. Willa was caught up at that moment and realized she was also applauding for Eliana.

This article was originally New York Times..

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