GREENFIELD — For 35 seconds tonight, the early-spring howls of wind will be the only sounds heard at Molinder Field.
They will tear across the ballpark unchallenged by those in attendance, who will stand for that half-minute in saddened silence.
Before Greenfield-Central’s baseball opening day doubleheader against visiting Pendleton Heights commences, there will be a 35-second tribute remembering a Cougar’s life cut short.
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A time chosen in honor of a uniform that will not be worn. Instead, the jersey will blow in the breeze as it hangs in the first-base dugout, an empty ambassador of a fallen teammate’s absence.
Almost three weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon in New Palestine, Greenfield-Central sophomore Andrew Hall died of injuries sustained in a car accident at the intersection of county roads 500W and 300S. He was 15.
Hall was a member of the Cougars’ freshman baseball team last season and would have challenged for playing time in the outfield on JV this year.
In those 35 seconds on the field tonight, a crowd’s memories will become a montage of final words, final interactions, final times they saw that trademark goofy smile spread wide across his face.
Some will be happy.
A girl in the stands will remember the last time she played a game of catch with her brother and best friend.
An athletics trainer in the dugout will remember the last time she had a rough day and he hugged her, hard, until she promised to feel better.
A teammate on the field will remember the last time his friend made a table of classmates laugh by scarfing six Big Bite cookies before “balancing” it out with a couple slices of pineapple.
As the seconds tick away, people will recall the cheerful life taken by tragedy.
For some, the pain of his sudden disappearance from their lives will transform any fond memories into thoughts of what will never be.
Andrew will never be able to perfect that breaking ball he was working on. He’ll never experience the thrill of taking the mound in his first varsity game.
Andrew will never again be the only one in his family who isn’t too old to play with his younger cousin.
Andrew will never again comfort his mother when she is sad, a responsibility he took seriously, because he hated to see her sad more than anything in the world.
No matter how those in the blue-and-gold clad crowd dedicate those 35 seconds, there is no doubt to whom the Cougars’ on the field will dedicate the forthcoming doubleheader and the season beyond.
Tonight, Andrew’s teammates will wear digital camouflage jerseys, Andrew’s favorite, with patches honoring their fallen friend — A. H. #35, with a halo above the A.
Some have inscribed something similar inside the bills of their hats, while others will wear the black T-shirts the Cougars’ manager had made up for them, with the words “Gone but never forgotten,” beneath their uniforms.
Andrew’s friends and family agreed that he lived by a simple maxim: Baseball is life. Now, on the first day of the season, those he loved will live and play in his memory.
After 35 seconds, the silence will fade, and the age-old sounds of the ballpark will reclaim control of their surroundings.
The dull thud of a ball connecting with the inside of a glove, the click-clack of metal spikes against the dugout floor and finally, someone, probably the umpire, will shout out the greatest sound a baseball fanatic like Andrew could have ever heard: “Play ball!”
A season in memory of Andrew Hall begins.
Before tonight’s doubleheader against Pendlenton Heights at Molinder Field, the Greenfield-Central baseball teams plans to honor former teammate Andrew Hall, who died March 15, and his family. His sister and former Cougars athletics trainer Jocelyn Hall as well as his mother Chandra Meyer are expected to be in attendance. Included in the team’s tribute will be:
- a 35-second moment of silence (35 for the jersey number Andrew would have worn);
- the releasing of 35 balloons;
- players wearing arm patches/hats memorializing Andrew.
Those who knew and loved Andrew Hall shared a few kind words:
“It means a lot that they (the Cougars baseball team) are dedicating their season to Andrew, especially considering what baseball meant to him. I mean, we all play sports for different reasons, so for them to all say this season is for him, it means a lot to our family. It just shows how caring those boys are.” — Jocelyn Hall, Andrew’s sister and 2014 Greenfield-Central graduate.
“The Friday before he died, we had one last offseason workout, and I ran them into the ground. There were a lot of probably not very nice things said about me that day, but the whole time he was running, he was smiling. … Every teacher I talked to about Andrew said they just remember his smile. I know that’s the last think I’m going to see every time I think about him.” — Robbie Miller, Greenfield-Central manager
“He was always happy, always ready to go. He never complained about anything. He was just different. I don’t why he was so happy all the time, but he always was. I never saw him in a bad mood, ever.” — Alex Reilly, Greenfield-Central athletics trainer.
“I’m going to miss him just for the fact that he could make anybody laugh. It didn’t matter what kind of mood you were in. Just seeing him in the hallway, you’d start smiling. He always had that little goofy smile on his face.” — Dylan Cheshier, Greenfield-Central junior infielder.
“I feel like I have lost a brother. And to my parents, they feel like they have lost a son.” — Nick Johnson, Greenfield-Central sophomore infielder/pitcher.