In the second-to-last Ballpark Digest Award for the 2011 season, we honor the Cape Cod League for a poignant remembrance of a victim of the 2011 Tucson shootings — a young girl who happened to be a big baseball fan.
Christina-Taylor Green (shown at right) was born into a baseball family: her grandfather, Dallas Green, managed the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies in 1980, while her father, John Green, is a long-time MLB scout whose duties include overview of prospects in the Cape Cod League. So it’s no surprise the third-grader loved baseball — her goal was to be the first woman to play Major League Baseball — and it’s no surprise she loved Cape Cod League baseball.
Those dreams ended when she was among the six people killed by Jared Loughner at that Tucson strip mall in January 2011. But her memory lives on, partly through the efforts of Cape Cod League officials. What the league did to honor Green — literally arranging for one of its baseballs to be launched into space as a personal item carried by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, as well as honoring her memory at last year’s All-Star Game — earns the Cape Cod League special honors in the annual Ballpark Digest awards.
“Each year we like to honor something special in the baseball world with an Editor’s Choice Award,” said Kevin Reichard, publisher of Ballpark Digest. “Christina’s tragic death touched the hearts of so many in the baseball world. The Cape Cod League deserves recognition for the special ways it honored her memory.”
“We are honored to receive this special award from Ballpark Digest,” said Joe Sherman, the Cape League’s special projects coordinator who worked behind the scenes to make the “Spaceball” project a reality. “We thank publisher Kevin Reichard and the editors of Ballpark Digest for their recognition of our desire to memorialize a very special little girl whose tragic death touched us very deeply,” Sherman said. “We would also like to publicly acknowledge the cooperation we received from NASA, shuttle commander Capt. Mark Kelly and astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman, who presented our “Spaceball” to the Green family in ceremonies preceding our All-Star Game last July at Fenway Park. And we extend our heartfelt thanks to John, Roxanna and young Dallas Green for their gracious acceptance of the unique baseball that now occupies a place of honor in their home.”
Here’s the exact promotion, as recounted by league officials:
It was because of Christina’s love of our game and the happy times she spent in our special part of the world that the idea for “Spaceball” was conceived. What would better represent this child’s hopes and dreams than a Cape League baseball?
Congresswoman Giffords’ husband, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, was the NASA astronaut named to command STS-134, the next-to-last Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station. Although the deadline had passed, the Cape League reached out to U.S. Sen. John Kerry, whose staff convinced NASA to allow this special baseball to be placed aboard Endeavour. When Capt. Kelly heard about the ball, he asked that it be made part of his PPK (personal preference kit). Thus, the mission’s commander assured that our “Spaceball” would take its place in NASA and Cape League history.
On May 16, 2011, at 8:56 a.m. ET, Endeavour launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Exactly 15 days, 17 hours, 38 minutes and 51 seconds later, the orbiter touched down at Cape Kennedy, its mission complete after a journey of 6,510,221 miles and 248 orbits of the Earth.
While in space, Capt. Kelly reached into his PPK, removed the baseball and allowed it to float in zero gravity past a window looking out on the Earth. He snapped the spectacular photo that accompanies this story, a photo which, like its subject, is truly “out of this world.”
At the 2011 Cape League All-Star Game at Fenway Park, all uniformed personnel wore special commemorative patches (shown below) that benefited a memorial fund established in Christina-Taylor Green’s name. And astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman, who was on board the International Space Station during Endeavour’s final visit, joined us as a representative of NASA and Capt. Kelly in a special ceremony, assuring that the Cape Cod Baseball League’s “Spaceball” will serve as a permanent tribute to a very special little girl.
“In a sea of commercial promotions, the steps taken by the Cape Cod Baseball League to honor Green really stand out,” Reichard said. “She was a special girl, and her memory was well-served by the league’s actions.”
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Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Readers are asked to submit nominations for awards in specific categories; Ballpark Digest editors then go though the submissions (numbering some 400 pages of documentation last year). The awards cover both individual accomplishments as well as team accomplishments. This is the fourth season for the Ballpark Digest Awards. A complete listing of Ballpark Digest Awards can be found at www.ballparkdigest.com/awards.
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