Green's young, strong spirit will endure
In tragedy, child of baseball symbolizes the 'power of our ideals'
Saturday was the two-week anniversary of the unimaginable, horrific tragedy that struck Roxanna, John and Dallas Green when 9-year-old Christina was gunned down in cold blood as she prepared to meet Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Saturday was also the first day for Little League registration and tryouts in Tucson, Ariz. -- a small step in an attempted return to normalcy in their lives. Christina's brother, Dallas, 11, registered and worked out, then he and his parents flew to Washington as the guests of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for Tuesday night's State of the Union Address.
"We are still in shock and mourning, overwhelmed by grief," John Green said Friday. "We think it will be important for Dallas to go to Washington, see the White House, meet the president and be present for the State of the Union.
"As much as we are overwhelmed by the grief," added Green, "we are proud of what Christina has meant to so many people in this country. That pride will help us move forward. The hope that her life lost will lead to good may enable us to endure."
That tragic Saturday morning and the immediate days that followed remain a blur to the Greens. John and Roxanna have been told that their strength in speaking to the nation via MSNBC and ABC has been a source of strength to millions, although John said, "I have to admit that I don't remember what I said. We felt we needed to speak, but I'm not sure we know what we said except that it all came out of our hearts."
Even the funeral remains a blur.
"The Tucson community has rallied in ways you couldn't imagine," said Green. "It was incredible the way people came from the community, some from around the country. One scout I hired years ago paid his way from Atlanta, and I can promise you it was an economic sacrifice. I couldn't believe it when I saw [Red Sox outfielder] Darnell McDonald. I signed him for the Orioles in 1997; I spent the year joyous for the perseverance he demonstrated in finally making it to the Majors, and here he never forgot my family and flew in for the funeral."
But as family friend and fellow scout Clark Christ said, once everyone left town and the normality of a good life in Tucson restarted, the silent grief encompassed them.
"We're thinking that every day we have to try to get better," said Green. "It will not be easy. It will hit us many times. For instance, when we're up on Cape Cod this summer scouting the Cape League, we'll start thinking about how much Christina loved going there, how much she loved going to the games, how much she loved the time she spent going to the day camp with the Brewster Whitecaps. But there is so much good she has left behind that she will make us that much stronger."
The 9-year-old who has captured us wanted to be like Giffords because of what her congressperson did for others. Christina loved baseball and was a player -- the only starting female on her team.
"What we have found in all the outpouring we have received from around the country," Green said, "is that baseball is a very special community unto itself."
Just as Christina and Dallas went to games with their father, so John grew up going to games with his father, Dallas.
"I think of how lucky I was to get to talk to Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton," John said. "My father is a remarkable man. He's 76, he had some health issues this past year, but he still loves going to the park."
The elder Dallas Green was just that -- an original. He pitched for the Phillies, managed them to a World Series championship in 1980, left to run the Cubs and -- after trading for Ryne Sandberg, Dennis Eckersley and Rick Sutcliffe, and drafting players like Greg Maddux, Shawon Dunston and Rafael Palmeiro -- got the Cubbies to within a game of the 1984 World Series. He managed the Yankees and Mets. And he still loves the Phils.
John scouted for Pat Gillick and the Orioles, was the Pirates' farm director and now is the East Coast scouting supervisor for the Dodgers. Los Angeles assistant GM of amateur and international scouting Logan White was his boss in Baltimore, and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti got his first job in baseball from Dallas. When Colletti broke down at Christina's funeral, Dallas put his arm around him and said, "I'm always taking care of you."
In death, Christina Green has become a heroic figure, in and out of the game. Because the Green family believed so strongly in organ donation, Christina's organs were donated through The United Network for Organ Sharing. Roxanna bravely explained to ABC News that this is what Christina would have wanted, and while one story claimed that her organs had saved the life of a young girl in Boston, John said, "We're not certain of that, but we do know that she brought eyesight back to two other children.
"It's amazing, it's so good," he said. "It's just another way that this little girl has given to the world."
Major League Baseball is formulating plans to honor Christina Green across the sport. It is expected that memorials will be held at Dodger Stadium, Wrigley Field and in Philadelphia. When the Green family is on Cape Cod this summer, the Red Sox may honor the family, with Christina the model for that ownership's commitment to community citizenship. At the least, MLB can use Christina's example as inspiration for an expected organ-sharing initiative.
"I hope people across the country will see Christina as a symbol of citizenship," said John. "It's something we believe in, something she believed in, which is why she was so interested in politics at such a young age."
Roxanna Green told ABC News that Christina "was all about helping."
So America and baseball has a hero brought to light in the tragedy outside a Safeway market on a peaceful Saturday morning, a hero raised by generations of baseball Greens.
"Hopefully," said John Green, "she can be a symbol of people helping people."
She is the nation's and its pastime's first real hero of 2011, and will remain the symbol of what Obama called "the enduring power of our ideals."
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.