Baseball returning to Tucson to honor Green
D-backs, White Sox will donate proceeds to remembrance fund
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It has been barely two months since the tragic events in Tucson, Ariz., when a little girl was killed and a Congresswoman gravely wounded during a shooting spree that took six lives.The Arizona Diamondbacks and White Sox return to their old training grounds on Monday for a charity exhibition game at what is now called Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. The proceeds will benefit a fund set up in remembrance of that 9-year-old girl: Christina Taylor Green. Christina Taylor was the daughter of Dodgers scout John Green and the granddaughter of Phillies icon Dallas Green. John Green said on Sunday that he has been overwhelmed by support since the tragic events, during which Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head. She is reportedly progressing well, but slowly, in a Houston rehabilitation center.
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"This has affected a lot of people around the country," John Green said in a phone interview. "Our baseball community has really stepped up. I'm proud of our guys, not only my club, but everybody. If they could do anything, they would do it. These benefit games are a good example of it, that we're in this together."The D-backs and White Sox trained at what until last year was called Tucson Electric Park, beginning in 1998, Arizona's debut season. The White Sox left two years ago for Glendale, Ariz., and the D-backs departed this past spring for the spectacular new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Rockies went to Scottsdale along with the D-backs, leaving Tucson devoid of spring baseball for the first time since 1946. Both the White Sox and D-backs committed to playing a few games in Tucson each spring. The D-backs will return to meet the Dodgers on March 25, in a game benefiting the Tucson Together Fund, established to help reimburse expenses incurred by witnesses and the 12 others who were wounded and survived the Jan. 8 shootings. Money collected for the Christina Taylor Memorial Fund will buy much-needed equipment for schools, as well as be distributed to children less fortunate than she was, her father said. "This was tragic, and I think it's the least that we can do," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said before Arizona played the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Sunday. "It doesn't make the situation better, but hopefully it will help them move on. We're going to do two of those benefit games, and that's just part of who we are as an organization. None of us can understand it at all: why it happened or how the people feel, the victims or the community. But we'll go down there and get a better understanding of it." Gibson said he wasn't making the trip to Tucson on Monday, but will be there on March 25. Alan Trammell will manage the team in his stead. Ozzie Guillen, Gibson's White Sox counterpart, changed his mind and said he will be there. "A very sad moment we went through a few months ago, but it's very important for me and our players to go there and be a part of that," Guillen said on Sunday. "I love Tucson and everyone knows that. Great town, and I had a great time there. I have a lot of respect for people there." Christina Taylor had big brown eyes and long brown hair. She was the only girl on her Canyon del Oro Little League team, and she told everyone that her goal was to be the first woman to play in the Major Leagues. A budding politician, she had just been elected to her elementary school student council, and was taken that morning by a neighbor to meet Giffords at the Congresswoman's first neighborhood gathering after re-election. Christina Taylor was born on Sept. 11, 2001. "She was born on a tragic day and taken from us on a tragic day," said John Green, who is back on the road scouting. "Her nine years were very full. I wish she had many more, but that wasn't to be." Baseball people came in droves for Christina Taylor's memorial service and funeral less than a week after she was murdered. The Dodgers and Phillies were obviously well represented. John Green, a scout for six years with the Orioles and 10 with the Pirates, has been with the Dodgers since 2008. "It's a hard thing to comprehend, the loss of a child, especially such a young child," said Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who was at the funeral. "Losing a child in any way would be devastating, but to have it happen in such a senseless and random act is inexplicable." A patch representing Christina Taylor's Little League has been designed, and young ballplayers are wearing it. On Feb. 23, when Justine Siegal threw batting practice to the A's, she wore the patch on the left sleeve of the green Oakland jersey she wore that day. Siegel fulfilled her dream that week by becoming the first female to pitch batting practice to Major League teams when she tossed rounds against the A's and Indians. "There are teams all over the country wearing this patch," Siegal said that day after the approximately 15-minute session. "When I was sitting there on the bench, I knew if Christina was here she'd say, 'Let's have some fun.' She wanted to be the first woman Major League player. [In her honor], I give part of my dream to her family." John Green appreciates the sentiment. He'll be back from a road trip and at the game on Monday.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.