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No Matter Who You Are, Life Effects Us All

by Christine Cartafalsa

It was about a year and a half ago that I suffered my real first tragedy in life. Growing up in the shadowy protective environment that my parents provided for me in a pampered suburban town of North Jersey, violence was something that would merely be hinted at me via television whether movies or factual.

I spent my first 25 years of life with intermittent sadness, having to endure the quiet passing of my grandmother on my father’s side and my grandfather on my mother’s side. Unfortunately, I never really was given a chance to know either due to age and distance, but I find myself thinking about them a great deal. 9/11/01 would be another hint of tragedy as my immediate family and friends in New York amazingly escaped unscathed, but I did recognize a name on the lists of the departed released to the public. Again, I didn’t know him well, but I did know of him. Having spoken to him on the few occasions I did still sends chills up and down my spine because I grew up thinking that I’m safe and something like that could never happen to anyone I know.

Then there was my buddy from work. Once more, I didn’t know him well. He was 11 years my junior and worked in a different department. Word had gotten around the hotel I work in that I lived and breathed Phillies and my friend (who we will call John) began stopping me in the back of the house, often to share his jubilee or shrug his shoulders, depending how the team had done the previous night. “John” was a young man, full of life, who made anyone feel like his best friend with his warm and welcoming smile and, although I originally came from a posh, Jersey suburb and he from a rough, Philadelphia neighborhood, I found very little difference in who we were and what we wanted. What we wanted was to see the Phillies go to the World Series.

The last time I would see “John” was following an unbelievable match between the Phillies and Mets late August of 2007. The Phillies had already won three of the four-game series and the final battle between the two teams was nothing short of a roller coaster ride. “John” had been delivering items to guest rooms and paused in one long enough to switch on the TV and watch the finale. As I was leaving for the day, I ran into him, bubbling with excitement over the incredible win, and he told me how he was jumping up and down on the bed in the guest room – he did fix it when he was done. And the last words I would ever hear him say will forever echo in my mind…

“You see? I have hope.”

“John” would be gone that following Monday, another victim of the unnecessary violence that fogs all areas of the world today. He would be shot while waiting on a corner for a friend to pick him up and, for all things, he was shot over a necklace. Needless to say, the Phillies making it to the playoffs that year for the first time since ’93 was a fantastic and morose day for me.

As much as I looked forward to the starts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons to begin, I will never cease to be sorry that “John” is not here to either celebrate or verbally disembowel the Phillies with anymore. I am sorry that I wasn’t able to find him at last year’s parade or grumble over the slow start the Phillies have had so far. He would have been ecstatic over yesterday’s win, though. I can tell you that much. And when they win like that, I often wonder if “John” is helping them out when they need it.

I didn’t know who Nick Adenhart was until settling at a lunch table today with my Chinese food. Most people probably didn’t know about Adenhart in this area just like most don’t know anything about my friend “John”. My knowledge of the Angels staff is very limited and is likely to remain so. However, another random and careless act took the life of a 22-year old man with a promising future in front of him and it opened my eyes to who else was out there, but too late for me to appreciate what he had. Adenhart was awarded a spot in the Angels’ starting rotation this spring and made his first appearance on the mound just last night. Six shutout innings – wow! What a way to make a statement. And, as he watched his beautiful game get torn apart by Oakland’s batting frenzy, did he think – or anyone for that matter – that it would be the last time that he would take the mound?

Of course not and why should we? I didn’t think that I would never share another Phillies moment with my friend, but that’s how things wound up. While the majority of us don’t think about what may happen, the world is filled with others who just don’t think, period. As fans shed a tear for A-Roid and his dance with steroids, this young pitcher had his life tragically cut short and he, his family, his friends nor the world will ever know what great things may have come out of his career in baseball. Because he was a rookie (and not a media god like the forementioned) will enough tears be shed across the leagues and by the fans that follow them? Adenhart’s dreams were shattered for him and I am just as broken-hearted as I would be should this have happened to one of my favorite players.

Still, I’m glad that I do know now about Nick Adenhart and what he leaves behind as his name and his legacy is bound to be immortal in the land of the Angels.

My friend’s death wasn’t national news, but he will always be immortal in my heart and that’s good enough for me. As I am fortunate enough to get to share Yankees games with my Dad, feel the sun beat down on my neck at the ballpark and feel the twinge of excitement when the snow clears and I know baseball is on its way, I will be sure to take “John” with me. Always.

At least that’s what baseball means to me. What does it mean to you?

Nick Adenhart, 1986 - 2009