Anthony Rizzo, the first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, offered his support while pleading for real change during a vigil for the victims of the horrific Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Rizzo, a 28-year-old Florida native who graduated from M.S. Douglas in 2007, delivered an emotional speech at the candlelight vigil on Thursday. The major league player told his community that he and “the entire country” were grieving with them.
“Whatever support I can offer to our students, you’ll have it,” Rizzo said. “We have to be there for each other. We have to cope with our pain and we have to alleviate each other’s pain. We have to be the best possible version of ourselves.”
Rizzo left spring training with the Cubs to show his support for the victims in Florida. But this isn’t the first time the first baseman has kept in touch with his community. He reportedly still lives in Parkland.
In November, Rizzo donated $150,000 to his alma mater so that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High could install lighting for its baseball field.
“I owe my first start of my career to those who taught me the fundamental baseball skills I needed to become the player I am today,” he said of his former school at the time of the donation. “Without the help of my coaches, I don’t know if I would have had this much success. I am grateful for the support and encouragement they gave me when I needed it.”
Shortly before dismissal on Wednesday afternoon, a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High with an assault-style rifle and opened fire into hallways and classrooms, killing at least 17 teenagers and adults and injuring 15 others, officials said. Police arrested 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled from the school in the previous school year, and he’s been charged with premeditated murder.
The horrific attack marked the 18th school shooting of 2018.
Rizzo choked back tears Thursday night as he recalled his own time at the South Florida high school.
“I went to Stoneman Douglas. I grew up in Stoneman Douglas,” Rizzo said. “I played on those fields, I went to those classes. I studied in those classrooms. The same school we saw in videos yesterday for all the wrong reasons.”
“We see this on TV too often,” he added.
Rizzo described a familiar “cycle” that the U.S. goes through whenever a mass shooting occurs.
“We get horrified that this violence is inflicted in our kids. We get angry that there’s nothing we can do, and nothing’s done about it. And then we ultimately get immune and move on to something else.”
“But then it happens in our own town,” he added. “In your own school or the movie theater, or a nightclub or a church. And we realize it can happen to us, in our safe and tight-knit community, Parkland.”
Rizzo also warned that other attacks would plague even more communities if change doesn’t happen soon
“Look, I’m a baseball player, but I’m also an American. I’m a Floridian and I’m a Parklander ― for life,” Rizzo said. “While I don’t have all the answers, I know that something has to change before this [happens in] another community and another community and another community.”
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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