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Boys of Summer Cope With Tragedy, Playing the Game They Love

On an April evening, the Geneva Vikings 12u travel baseball team helped the Oswego Panthers get back to baseball after the tragedy that took their friend and teammate from them.

It was a cold, crisp, and overwhelmingly a somber evening on Tuesday, April 17.

There was quite a bit that could have had our attention. From the Blackhawks in the playoffs, the Bears schedule being released, to even the baseball game that we all assembled for.

However, nothing could have stolen the moment away from what was to be a remembrance of a young boy who was taken from us all too soon.

was the 12-year-old boy who was tragically hit with a baseball while warming up a pitcher during a game last Wednesday. He was pronounced dead the following evening from his injuries, but he will never leave our hearts. I did not know Eric personally, nor did I know his parents, or even his friends. But I do know boys like him. Boys who play baseball in the same league, boys who are all about the sports they love.

My son plays in the same league as Eric and played against his team many times over the last couple years. It was the actions of all those other 12-year-olds that moved me yesterday evening, however, and I think it is safe to say ... moved us all. Watching these kids who barely know anything about life or how hard it can be or even how many heart-wrenching moments life may hold for each of them, yet in a moment of peace and respect, each of them remembered a young man who was undoubtedly just like them all.

We all know Eric from watching our sons go through the motions every day and go through their hard times and struggles to get homework done at the last minute or to try and run out to hang out with their friends, skipping dinner. These young boys are likely reflections of Eric, and that is why in some little way we all share in the sadness from his untimely passing.

When something tragic happens, it is natural for us to try and emulate the scenario in our own heads with our own loved ones playing the roles. This is a common action and one that helps us to empathize with the people who are personally involved with the actual tragedy. Anyone who has a son or daughter playing in sports tries their best to keep them safe. At some point, however, we must let go and let them grow, but that is never easy. We all put ourselves in Mr. and Mrs. Lederman’s position and end up wondering how someone could ever manage to come out of something like this whole.

Our team of boys were the first to face the Oswego Panthers as they tried to get back some semblance of normalcy to their lives. Coming back to a baseball field was surely hard for most of them, as I am sure it was equally difficult for some to see Eric’s hat hanging from the dugout fence.

The boys pushed on though and tried their best to begin the game. As they ran out on the field, they all touched the hat as they passed it, taking a little bit of Eric onto the field with them. It was a night game, and as the boys ran out, the lights reflected the determination from their faces. The Oswego Panthers took to the field in honor of Eric Tuesday evening, and as they did everyone clapped.

There was plenty of orange around the ballpark that evening. People wore orange ribbons, orange shirts, and the visiting Geneva Vikings wore orange socks as a sign of respect.

When it was Oswego’s turn at the plate, there was one more act left to play. After the first batter in Oswego’s lineup, nobody came to the plate. The players filed out of the dugout and lined up in front of their respective benches and all held two fingers to the sky. The entire ballpark did, as well. From parents, to coaches and brothers and sisters, everybody showed two fingers for Eric as he wore the number 2.

With a seemingly invisible batter, the pitcher threw the ball over the plate. The ball was given to the Oswego coach so he could present it to Eric’s parents. It was a very moving moment, and it was one that I am sure will not be forgotten anytime soon.

The first two innings were a bit slow, and you could tell it took a bit for the boys to get back into their “baseball minds." In the end, however, they did, and the game turned out to be very exciting. It was Oswego that came out on top by a score of 6-3, but both teams played hard. When the game was over, the Geneva Vikings players and coaches along with the parents, gave Oswego a well-deserved ovation. They stood like men on this evening, and the boys from Geneva knew it.

It is never easy to lose someone you love, especially a child. I can never imagine the pain that parents who have will feel and I will never assume that I know the hardships. However, at a time that I was witness to a bunch of 12-year-olds bearing some of that pain, I was amazed at how they carried themselves. Each one of them handled their personal pain very well. They showed all the parents just how mature a 12-year-old boy can be when faced with such a sad moment.

Without a doubt, my child and the kids we know are on the opposite end of all of it. Yet they came through this better than I think many of us could have imagined. The boys from Oswego did have it quite a bit harder. Although I do not know any of them, I could tell by the way they played their game and carried themselves onto the field for every inning that they played this one for Eric. He will never be forgotten.

This is a sadness that no parent should have to face. I take some solace in the fact that by the way the entire Oswego team and parents handled last night's activities that they do not have to do it alone. One parent I spoke with told me that she thought it was meant to be that the Vikings be the first team to play Oswego as they get back to baseball. She said that our boys are all caring, mature and wonderful kids who can handle this adversity. I tend to agree with her.

All of the Kane County Bronco League teams will be wearing patches for the rest of the season in remembrance of Eric, as well as helmet stickers. It is a small token of respect for the young man who played a sport that we all love. A sport that we never think could take someone from us.

However, we must remember that mistakes can happen and sometimes tragedies spring from those mistakes. unfortunately we had to lose someone for this lesson to be taught. Even though this is the case, Eric will always be in our hearts and he will always remain a part of our baseball years.

Thirty years from now, when our children are all grown up and have kids of their own, they will pull a jersey out of a box in their attic or garage. They will see the patch on the sleeve, and they will remember the year they faced the tragedy and the passing of Eric Lederman—a boy who was taken from us all too soon, and one who will always remain in our hearts.

 

* Blogger's note: This post originally appeared on my website, www.diversebydesign.net on April 18, 2012.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Laura A April 23, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Such a moving story! So well written I felt as though I was there in that moment. Although it required a box of tissue, I read it several times. These 12 year old boys are far beyond their years! Prayers to all involved!
Brooke de Lench April 23, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Very difficult situation all of the kids and adults are in. You did a wonderful job sharing your emotions and those touched by this situation. Because I have been researching and writing about sudden death in young athletes for far too long I am sad to say that the one line that will haunt me is: "All of the Kane County Bronco League teams will be wearing patches for the rest of the season in remembrance of Eric, as well as helmet stickers." While you did not document exactly what happened I was sent the report.The lasting question that I have is what will they be wearing when they warm-up a pitcher or batter from now on? I am hopeful that the bigger message is that baseball is only a dangerous sport if protective clothing is not worn at all times (practices, too) and take it one step further--no horse play ever, ever. Accidents (not mistakes) happen when kids start to goof around and take their eyes off of the ball.
Mario Mescino April 24, 2012 at 12:15 PM
I hugged my boys a little tighter this morning. Thank you for sharing. Mario Mescino Huntley Blue Travel Baseball President
Bridget Wiacek April 24, 2012 at 06:22 PM
What a beautifully written article..,. Our boys are also part of the KCBL 13U league...All the teams said a prayer before each game that first weekend at a tournament Eric was to play in with his team... Our boys were so wonderful and they proudly wear a sweatband on their wrists with the number 2 on it in remembrance of Eric... We could not be prouder of these boys and how they have shown their respect for a fellow baseball player .
Caroline Hoell Kistler April 25, 2012 at 11:22 AM
My prayers for both boys, their families, teammates and friends.

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