Fairview Athletics / Courtesy photo
The game of baseball teaches its players from an early age to have a short memory and to not dwell on the past game, win or loss, and that you can lace them up again the next day.
While that mantra may be easy to abide by in the regular grind of the season, the game the Fairview Knights played on Tuesday night in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at the Hall of Fame Classic might forever be etched in their memory banks.
The Knights knew it was a possibility that they could face Parkland’s Stoneman Douglas High School when they entered the tournament and it became a reality on a warm Florida night.
The Knights paid tribute to the 17 students who were killed on Feb. 14 at the Parkland school with a moment of silence before the game and wore ribbons, made up by the Fairview parents, to honor them as well.
“They had the energy and they came to play and frankly they were the better team,” said Fairview’s Jeff Erickson, who went 0-for-1 with a walk in the 15-1 defeat to the Eagles. “You could feel the (energy) from their fans too, they had bull horns and fans lining up way ahead of time.”
The Eagles are a Florida powerhouse and they got an even bigger boost Tuesday night when 2007 graduate and World Series champion Anthony Rizzo showed up and sat in their dugout for part of the game.
Rizzo — whose Chicago Cubs will be in Miami against the Marlins on Opening Day — also took pictures, signed baseballs and chatted with both teams before the game.
“It was actually kind of cool,” Erickson said. “It was just a cool all-around experience.”
Erickson, who took part in Fairview’s student walkout on March 14 to protest gun violence in the wake of the Parkland tragedy, had a chance to chat with some of the Eagles players before hand and offer words of encouragement.
“But really, they are playing for another cause and they are playing for something bigger than the baseball game itself,” Erickson said. “It really showed in their effort and how much energy they had.”
For Fairview coach David Castillo, whose team scored its first win of the season on Monday night against Miami’s Ferguson High, knew he still had a job to do in terms of getting his boys ready to play a game.
“The biggest thing we talked about was just going out there and playing hard and they did for three innings and then the wheels kind of came off after that,” said Castillo, who despite the result won’t forget this game any time soon. “You feel for them and that school with what they went through.
“But this game will hopefully prepare us for the rest of the season, that we can come out and play hard. But just to see that team and what they did after all that has happened, you can just see that they have this extra passion to play hard, and not just for their school but for the students that were lost.”