- Ada, Oklahoma

March 6, 2014

Honoring Chris Lane

Ada — One by one, they stopped playing or coaching and walked past the media to talk about Chris Lane.

Guess you could say he was on everybody’s mind Wednesday, especially the 40 or so players from Redlands Community College and East Central University.

They were all wearing Chris Lane’s numbers on the ECU diamond.

The No. 2s  lined up on the third base line in Redland Cougars uniforms.

The No. 7s lined up along the first-base line.

Then they played a baseball game, knowing that when it was over, Redlands would retire No. 2 forever in honor of the catcher who once played ball with them and became their friend and leader.

The Tigers would do the same with No. 7, the number Chris wore at ECU after earning his associates degree from Redlands and becoming a Tiger.

A single .22 bullet fired by Duncan teenagers who said they were bored sent shock waves around the world last year.

People all over the globe wept for the senselessly-murdered baseball player they’d never met.

Wednesday, Lane’s father, Peter Lane, a kind, soft-spoken man with short gray hair and an accent those of us in these parts have to lean forward to grasp, had boiled his grief down to a single tear which ran halfway down his cheek and stopped as he grappled to express his emotions about his fallen son.

He told reporters about the son he loved and misses terribly to this day.

Coaches, teammates and a girlfriend, Sara Harper of Duncan, speak glowingly of the former student athlete/business major.

The weather was beautiful, temperatures near 60 and the wind lay still for a change.

Peter Lane talked about the son who had made him so proud by earning athletic scholarships in the U.S., the son who studied hard and made his grades and played hard while inspiring his teammates.

Peter had been making plans to get across the ocean during Chris’ senior year to see him play for the first time since his school days down under.

Matt Nugent, the longtime athletic director at Redlands College, first recruited Chris in Melbourne.

They met in Melbourne where he hung out with the family.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him,” Nugent said. “Chris was such a special person to all of us. He was such a self-deprecating human being. He could make fun and still have a huge heart.”

Nugent thinks about the happy moments. Chris was hardly a tragic figure in life, and he doesn’t want one bizarre day to block that out going forward.

He said his team would try to beat the Tigers today because that’s what Chris would want, both teams going at each other to the end.

“He was very talented in everything he did,” his former coach said.

ECU second-baseman Tom McGarry remembered Chris from their days in Australia. “He was one of the main reasons I came to the States,” he said.

Peter, who is an accountant back home, said Chris’ mother did a great job “dragging” him to practices. He told reporters one of three daughters had given birth a few days ago.

“Not everything in our lives is bad,” he said. “Some wonderful things have happened to us as well.”

He remembered how he started playing baseball himself after his son started playing.

“It’s usually the other way around,” he said.

 Peter said he just tries to “pick up” and go at it each day.

He’d laugh occasionally, recalling times when he said his son could be a “bloody nuisance” like all teenagers.  “When he came back home, he dumped parts for a wrecking crew,”  Peter said. “He liked the cash.”

Michael Mariano remembered his teammate as being a great leader, someone who could be loud while encouraging teammates. “He’s the best team leader I've ever been around,” Mariano said.

When he heard his former teammate had been killed, he remembered the rage that exploded inside him. “At first I wanted to avenge his death,” he said.

Redlands player Tom McGarry said he first heard of the shooting when he got a call from his parents in Australia. He said time has helped him gain some perspective on the tragedy.

“It could happen to anybody,” he said. “It could happen to me, and it could have happened in Melbourne.”

He admitted it scared him a little at first.

When he and his foreign teammates go inside of box stores and see the huge array of guns and rifles on the walls, they are taken aback.

“We’re just not used to things like this,” he said. “I don’t see anything changing, though. It’s written into their Constitution. That’s just the way it is.”

He said he's written three papers on gun control since the incident.

Chris’ ECU baseball coach Dino Rosato was too upset last year to meet with reporters. On this day, he was feeling better, but the loss of a player he admired so much still hurts.

He remembers the first time he saw Chris behind the “dish” and watching him play.

“I knew he was the kind of player who would fit in well with our program,” he said.

He said he tries to teach his players to live by the square and level, and Chris did just that.

“I try to think of what I’m doing and to remember Chris each day.”