Chicago Cubs first baseman and 2007 graduate of Stoneman Douglas High School Anthony Rizzo left his teammates in Arizona during spring training to be somewhere much more important. He quickly boarded a flight to his hometown in Florida to give an emotional speech at the vigil for victims of the mass school shooting that left 17 dead and many more injured.
“I grew up at Stoneman Douglas,” Rizzo said on Thursday night. “I played on those fields. I went to those classes. I studied in those classrooms — the same school we saw on videos yesterday for all the wrong reasons.”
Rizzo, who won the Roberto Clemente Award for community service last season, donated $150,000 to the school in November so they could install new lights on the baseball field. He also owns a home in the Parkland area, where he recently held his annual walk to raise funds for those affected by childhood cancer.
To say the shooting hit close to home is an understatement.
“We see this on TV too often,” Rizzo said. “I feel like it’s all the time. There’s a cycle to it. We get horrified that this violence is inflicted on our kids. We get angry that there’s nothing we can do and nothing is done about it. And then we ultimately get immune and move on to something else. But then it happens in our own town — in your own school, or movie theater, or nightclub, or church. And we realize that it can happen to us, in our safe and tight knit community, Parkland.”
Here’s Rizzo’s full speech:
— MLB (@MLB) February 16, 2018
According to ESPN, Rizzo also played football for Aaron Feis, the assistant coach and security guard who lost his life while trying to shield students from gunfire.
Rizzo will likely lean on teammate Kris Bryant, who calls Las Vegas home, during this trying time. Bryant’s sister-in-law and friends narrowly escaped the shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead in October.
“I guess really the only thing I can offer (Rizzo) is the support system to hear him out,” Bryant told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m here to help in any way I can. But for me, it just touches my heart when I see the Vegas community come together. That’s what we’re going to see here.”
And, knowing Rizzo’s big heart, he will certainly play a huge role in the community’s healing process.