By Kyle Scafariello
Christina-Taylor Green loved baseball. Every year her father John, a widely respected scout for the Dodgers, took a trip up to Cape Cod to watch the best young stars play baseball. As soon as his daughter Christina was old enough to make the trip, he started bringing her with him.
Summer after summer on cold mornings in July, Christina would attend the Brewster Whitecaps morning baseball camps. In the Cape Cod league, it’s customary that each team have their players and coaches hold camps. Nineteen- and twenty-year-old players hoping to be drafted next June run the camps as their summer job, making a little extra money teaching the game that they love to kids five years old and up. If you go to a game in Dennis-Yarmouth there are countless adults in the stands that will tell you stories about current superstars who made an impact on their kids’ lives. Names like Chris Sale, Buster Posey, and Aaron Boone fly out of their mouths, followed by something like “changed my kids’ lives forever.”
Christina was exceptionally athletic, smart, and outgoing. She was the only girl to play on her Canyon Del Oro Little League team. Her father thought she was a natural for politics, for when she was eight years old, she had mastered the art of talking with others, not to them. People who met her say she just loved meeting people around the baseball fields and sharing her joy. To many, she promised she would someday be either the first woman to play in the major leagues (as a second baseman, of course) or she would be a member of the United States Congress, like her Tucson, Ariz. Representative, Gabrielle Giffords.
The group who runs the Cape Cod Baseball League gives out an award in Peter Gammons, a famous baseball writer for The Athletic and ESPN, name every year with no criteria, just somebody who embodies the spirit and soul of the game. Years ago, they chose Christina as that person. She embodied all the good in our national pastime. Not television ratings or licensing deals or parking lot revenues, but the love of baseball and a pure, selfless love of what she dreamed her country was, is, and always would be.
Eight years old.
The next time I heard about Christina was the following year. Her parents Roxanna and John were being honored at Fenway Park. They had sprinkled Christina’s ashes out onto the rocks off the Brewster Flats and had driven up to Fenway to be honored before the Red Sox game. This was months after the morning of January 8th, on which Christina’s neighbor was going to a meet-and-greet speaking event at the Tucson supermarket. She had invited Christina, who’d turned nine on September 11, 2010, to come along and meet the congresswoman she so admired. A 22-year-old man opened fire on Giffords, who was struck in the head, but survived a serious brain injury. Eight others died, including Christina.
The following spring, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers combined to make significant improvements to the Tucson little league field on which Christina had played and named it Green Field in her honor.
During the regional little league tournament at Green Field, Logan White Jr., son of the former Los Angeles scouting director Logan White (now with the Padres) and a friend of Christina’s, changed his uniform to No. 12, the number she had worn. In the final inning of the championship game, White hit a two-out, three-run walk-off homer, and as he circled the bases, he pointed to the 12 on his back and afterward dedicated the home run to her.
On January 31, we will celebrate Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday, and on February 5th at UCLA begins the year-long celebration of what he meant to baseball, to sports, to our country. In a nation culturally and racially divided and faced with daily fears, and for all the sports’ ongoing challenges, baseball still holds an important place in our history — reflecting our immigration patterns and standing tall to end the notion that discrimination is “just the way it is” with giants like Robinson, Branch Rickey, Bill Veeck and Larry Doby.
This year, both World Series teams had players from a dozen different countries. It was the first World Series that featured two managers of color. After the second game of the World Series, the American League MVP grabbed a friend, gathered post-game food, walked a mile down the road to the Boston Public Library and distributed food to the homeless huddling outside. After a photographer walking by secretly snapped a photo of the act of kindness, Mookie Betts said “It was not intended to be a public thing.” Meanwhile at the same time, the National League MVP Christian Yelich had been trying to help family and friends cope with a recent shooting in his hometown, Thousand Oaks.
No matter what happens in our country, we still have baseball. Whatever canyons are created in our country, we still have people like Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich. We have Alex Cora and Jackie Robinson, and we have people like Christina. Baseball has helped bring us these stories. Stories of hope like bringing food to the homeless, stories of courage like Jackie Robinson, and stories of pure innocence like Christina, a little girl who loved baseball and idolized her local representative until someone took it all away from her.
George Plimpton once said, “Baseball is not really the American Pastime. It’s not a pastime. It’s the American spirit.”