Rangers honor Newtown victim’s family in emotional ceremony
Robbie Parker received the worst news a parent could ever get back in December. His 6-year-old daughter Emilie was among the 26 children who were killed in the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
But on Friday, Parker and his family experienced a moment of a lifetime when an MLB team tried to boost their spirits with a special invitation.
Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, a photo circulated of Parker and Emilie holding a home run ball hit by the Rangers’ David Murphy during batting practice at Fenway Park in Boston.
When Rangers officials saw the picture, they invited Parker to Rangers Ballpark to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday. After he did, he embraced Ivan Rodriguez when they met halfway between the mound and home plate. Parker’s wife and two daughters watched nearby as thousands of people were standing and cheering in the stands.
“It was really tough to try to keep my emotions under control there,” said Parker, who was fighting back tears. “It was pretty amazing.”
Apparently, Rodriguez not only offered a hug, but some kind words as well.
“He said, `I just want you to know how much I love you,’ and he just said your daughter is being a great example to so many people. And he just pointed to the crowd and said, `All these people are here for you and they’re here because of her,” explained Parker.
“They’ve got a game to play and they’ve got to focus and so I didn’t want to be a distraction to anybody at all,” said Parker. “But he’s just a nice guy. That was really special that he was able to do that for us.”
Parker grew up a Rangers fan because he lived in Arlington, Texas for the first 10 years of his life. Emilie attended her first Rangers game when she was just 3 months old, but it was last season that she caught the home run ball. Whenever Parker watched a game on television, Emilie would always ask which one was “the guy who hit that ball.”
Now, the guy who hit the ball knows exactly who Emilie is and had the chance to do something in her honor.
“That was a very humbling experience,” said Murphy, whose home run ball Emilie had been holding in the picture. “I have three kids of my own. I can’t imagine what that would be like. It definitely makes the game a little easier. We’re worrying about winning and numbers. It makes you realize the insignificance of baseball.”