After Parkland Tragedy, a Team Heals Together

Coach Todd Fitz-Gerald was in the first base dugout when he realized what was happening that day. He’d been working in his clubhouse office, preparing for one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Eagles’ last baseball practices before their season opener. Fitz—as everyone knows him—stepped into the dugout to check on the field.

He looked for the groundskeeper, Jeff Heinrich, but he was nowhere in sight. Normally, Heinrich, a police sergeant who just worked the field for fun on his off days, could be found tending to the crisp, bright green grass and freshly dragged amber-red dirt. What Fitz saw, instead, was a sea of students pouring from the school’s gray buildings in the distance. He heard the fire alarm and the swelling chorus of sirens drawing close. And then he heard “active shooter” on his radio. 

Soon, Heinrich reappeared with a boy who’d been shot in the leg and had a bad limp. Fitz and Heinrich took him into the clubhouse, where they found a medical kit and treated his wound. Paramedics came soon, and the boy would live. “Worst thing I’ve ever seen,” Fitz recalled to me later. The hole in the boy’s leg was bigger than two baseballs. “Wide-open. Wide-ass open. Looked like hamburger meat, man.”

———

The Stoneman Douglas campus shut down for weeks after that. Baseball field included. Season opener, canceled. And with Parkland activists renewing the calls for gun control and against gun violence, Fitz knew some would question the need to get back to baseball. How can you even care about a game after all this? How could baseball possibly matter now? 

“F–k that,” Fitz said.

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