MODESTO - The news of the tragic and senseless “joy killing” of East Central University baseball player Chris Lane on Aug. 16 in Oklahoma traveled at different wavelengths.
It certainly made an impression on a nation rightfully sensitive to such incidents, and we’ve all had to deal with our own senses of outrage.
But how would it hit you if you were from the community of Aussies who live in the United States? Maybe one of the small number of Aussies playing professional baseball here _ 60 in the minors, seven in the majors.
And then again, what if he were your friend?
Lane hailed from Melbourne, and Modesto outfielder David Kandilas is from Sydney, but they got to know each other and become friends while attending Australia’s high-level youth baseball academy over two summers.
Here are the words of Kandilas about the killing.
“I played with him a couple years and also against him. He was the same age as me, but we’re from different states. Once you hear the news it just shocked everyone back home and especially all the Aussies over here because there aren’t that many of us. It just crushes all of us. It’s one of those things that shows you that you can’t take life for granted - anything can happen in a split second and he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s pretty heavy stuff.
“There’s a major league baseball academy that’s a program for kids 14-17 before they go into pro ball or sign professionally. It’s a two-month program that’s the best experience a young kid can have in Australia before you get into pro ball. You work out every day, play baseball every day and you get educational studies in the evening. I spent a couple years there, and that’s where I got to know Chris really well. It’s just terrible.
“The community back home put together a fund to help his family come out to the States, collect his body and take it back. The funeral and the wake was just this last week. Pretty horrific stuff.
"I found out over social media, and that’s the way this day and age is. Then there were some texts between me and some buddies and that’s when I found out all of it was true. You just pinch yourself because it’s crazy. It was a hard loss for us.
“Growing up, playing against Chris - he was a great kid. I don’t think he had aspirations about getting drafted and playing professionally, but he was good enough to get a scholarship and played for the love of the game and to get a diploma out of it.
“Australians love to travel and we’re all renown for our travel bug. This won’t change anything about that. All Aussies know that nowhere in the world is really safe - even in Australia something could happen as you’re walking down the street. It’s just the world we live it.”