MESA, Ariz. – Maybe it gets better when you’re running the cones. Maybe if you turn up Dire Straits and Jimi Hendrix and pick up one foot and put it down and pick up the other, maybe then your head can slow down and your heart can fill with oxygen again. Maybe then it can be just another day, for just a little while, and those dark clouds can be just clouds and won’t feel quite so heavy, like they’re lying on your chest.
Man, you wake up and it’s so early, still dark outside, and the world is waiting. You get up and think about some coffee and, oh yeah, check your phone and, that’s right, Rizz went back to Florida.
And then you remember why. Those kids. All those people. His people.
Could there possibly have been another day like the others? Could it have happened again?
“There’s a lot of bad people out there,” Kris Bryant says. “I don’t know how to change it.”
So you stand mid-morning on a terrace out back, where Chicago Cubs are spread across the yard. They’re running cones. They’re playing catch. You clasp your hands behind you and open your shoulders a little and take a long breath, and you stare at this piece of life happening in spite of itself. You stare as if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen it. And if you’re like everyone else you think, “This is how we survive this stuff. We go back to work. We put one foot in front of the other. We cry and hope there’s an answer and pray for the fallen. We pray for peace for them. We scream and shout and hope somebody hears.”
You run the cones.
“It’s just hard for me,” Bryant says, “because I just want to see good people. That’s something that personally I strive to do every day, is just to be a good person. And it’s not that hard to do. I just see too much of that in the world today. … But there is a way and it starts with the actions of each human being.”
On Wednesday night, after a day of driving from Las Vegas, Bryant texted his friend and teammate, Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo had been at camp since Monday and had worked out every day since.
What’s the plan tomorrow? Bryant messaged.
His phone buzzed.
I’m actually going home.
Rizzo grew up in Parkland, Florida. He attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, class of ’07. His parents and brother live in town. He lives in a neighboring town. Every winter he fills Pine Trails Park for an event that funds pediatric cancer research. This year it raised almost $1 million. He just sprung for new lights for the baseball and softball fields at the high school. Those are his people, all of them. And now there are 17 fewer of them, and the rest will fight not to be broken forever, and Rizzo couldn’t fix any of that but he could go be among them, mourn with them. Because they’re good people. So is he. They need each other.
Gone are sisters and brothers, fathers, teachers and coaches and students and friends, and who knows when it will be safe to smile again, to laugh again, to be normal again. To breathe again.
“It’s his community,” Bryant says. “He’s right there with them. … As sad as it is to say, I’ve been through it.”
Not five months ago, 58 people died at a music festival in Las Vegas, Bryant’s hometown. One man. Automatic weaponry. Another day like the others.
“Parkland and Coral Springs please stay strong!” Rizzo tweeted in the aftermath of Wednesday’s massacre. “This is out of control and our country is in desperate need for change. I hope in this darkest of times back home this brings everyone together and we can find love. You’re all in my prayers.”
Parkland and Coral Springs please stay strong! This is out of control and and our country is in desperate need for change. I hope In this darkest of times back home this brings everyone together and we can find love. You’re all in my prayers
— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) February 14, 2018
You spend all that time hoping to help kids who have cancer, just like when you had cancer, hoping they can live longer and better, hoping they can be kids today and grownups tomorrow, buying hours and days and years for them if you can. Because you love life so much. Because you believe in the good of it. So they will love and believe, too. And then when you’re not looking, when you couldn’t possibly have been looking, this thing happens, this horrific thing. Like someone out there hates life as much as you value it. And the people like him may not be winning, but they’re damn well making a game of it, close enough, and how is that even right? How is it even fair?
When Rizzo told them he had to go, the Cubs told him to go. To stay for as long as he needed. To be sure to ask for help. They’d be there.
“These moments in our culture,” manager Joe Maddon said, “have got to stop. Nobody has the answers, but we have to figure it out somehow. … It’s just horrible. Horrible.
“You just imagine your own kids. Or your family. Anybody that you possibly know, being involved in that. It’s getting way too familiar. … Words. What are the proper words right now? I don’t even know what the proper words are.”
Maybe it’s the guns. It’s probably all the guns.
“I don’t know enough,” he said. “Except that it just doesn’t make sense that an automatic rifle has to be in anybody’s hands. I don’t understand that.”
The sun sets and it’s dark outside again, and now you can’t get the faces out of your head, or the names. Or the noise. Your friend could probably put a lot of those names with those faces, a different kind of agony, and that’s probably why he left. Because of that. To be with the people who maybe won’t ever be the same. To wear that himself, too, maybe.
“It’s so sad,” Bryant says. “I can’t imagine.”
And it occurs to you how exhausted you are, how your soul just can’t bear another hit, that it’s so tired of being mad and helpless and sad, and you’re running out of cones.
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