Young Tucson shooting victim is in the hearts of Team Arizona playing in World Series

More than seven months ago, a gunman shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during an appearance at a Tucson, Arizona, supermarket.

Giffords was badly injured, but survived the attack. However, 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green was among those shot and killed in what has been described as a massacre. She was the youngest of the victims.

Green was born on September 11, 2001, the day of the attacks on America. She was featured in a book about babies born on 9/11, expressed interest in politics and making America a better place and was at the supermarket that day to find out from Gifford what she could do.

The youngster also was a baseball player in her local league, Canyon Del Oro. Her father, John, is a scout for the Lost Angeles Dodgers. Her grandfather, Dallas Green, is a former Major League pitcher and manager.

Canyon Del Oro sold patches to remember its only female player in the under-9 league to benefit a memorial fund to provide scholarships. League officials also renamed one of their fields after Green.

Canyon Del Oro is the rival league to the Sunnyside Little League, home of the Tucson team playing this week in the Junior League Baseball World Series in Taylor.

After the Arizona state champions won the USA West regional tournament in California, the Sunnyside players and coaches returned to Tucson and were inspired to dedicate their World Series performance to Green. They obtained purple wrist bands to wear during their visit to Taylor.

Word spread and Tucson area residents were so impressed that they donated nearly $1,100 to help the all-star team travel by bus from Tucson back to the Los Angeles International Airport, where they boarded a plane to Michigan.

“This was a tragedy for Tucson. It hit us very hard,” said Alfred Pesquiera, a coach on the Sunnyside team. “Gabrielle Giffords was fighting for her life. The youngest victim was a little girl who played baseball and softball. Her life was just taken away. It affected the whole community, including our Sunnyside family. We thought what better reason to come up here and dedicate this to her and her family. We’re doing this for a little girl who loved playing the same sport our kids play.”

Pesqueira, who coaches baseball and is campus security monitor at a Tucson high school, said his brother Albert – a battalion chief in the Tucson Fire Department – happened to be in the area when the tragedy occurred and was one of the first responders even though he was off-duty.

Robert Ketterer, uncle of Sunnyside player Emilio Castillo, suggested that the team carry Green in their hearts during their trip to Taylor. Pesqueira said the coaches brought it to the players’ attention and “they were all for it. What better way to represent her than the Junior League World Series?”

“We wanted to do it for the little girl,” said Castillo, a 15-year-old outfielder. “Her dream was to go to a world series. She died at a young age and didn’t get to reach her dream. We wanted to dedicate the tournament to her memory.”

Players aren’t allowed to wear wrist bands or jewelry during games, so the players keep them in their pockets or give them to coaches while games are in progress.

Castillo said he and his teammates have been inspired to play harder.

“It makes me want to do better because I got a chance to do this and she didn’t have her chance,” he said.

Teammate Augie Otero, also 15, said he is still confused about why Green was seemingly a random victim of a seemingly senseless crime.

“I’m winning the game for the girl,” Otero said. “Her life was lost and we’re out here playing the game for her, having fun.”

Pesqueira said baseball is very popular in Tucson, a community “dedicated to our youth sports.”

-- Dave Gorgon

The members of the USA West champions from Tucson, Arizona, display their purple wrist bands that honor young
shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green.