Youth baseball tragedy attracts major support
By Andrew Walker
The Star Press
UNION CITY, Ind. (AP) — The saying is “There’s no crying in baseball,” but you can bet there will be an exception to that rule Saturday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Reds are playing host to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a matchup of two of the National League’s top teams, although for one local group in the stands, the game means much more than postseason implications.
More than seven weeks after 8-year-old Union City boy Dylan Williams’ tragic death after he was hit in the neck by a baseball during an all-star team practice, Williams’ family and his teammates are being treated to a VIP getaway day to Saturday afternoon’s Reds-Dodgers game.
The event was the brainchild of Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis and his wife, Sarah, who felt compelled to do something after reading about the July 16 accident in the newspaper.
“She read the article in USA Today, and we have a young daughter, her name is Dylan, so that’s how it piqued her interest,” Ellis told The Star Press in a phone interview this week. “She wanted to help, to reach out to the family or to the community and just see if there was anything we could do.”
The Ellises then got in touch with Union City Mayor Bryan Conklin to see how they could help.
“When I got the call from Sarah, they wanted to do something, so I went on the website and saw they played the Reds on (Saturday) and I said, ‘You guys just need to get together,’” Conklin told The Star Press.
Conklin was able to use his connections within the Reds organization — namely Steve Cobb, president and CEO of the Henny Penny Corp. and a member of the team’s ownership group — to set the wheels in motion for Saturday’s events.
“I used to work down in Henny Penny in Eaton, Ohio,” Conklin said. “I just put a bug in (Cobb’s) ear. I said, ‘You know, here’s what you can do to help facilitate both teams to do something.’ “
The plans for Saturday’s game plays out like a baseball fan’s dream trip for those from Union City, a small community with a population of about 3,500.
Erick Williams, Dylan’s father, told The Star Press the large group is meeting in Union City Saturday morning and is boarding a charter bus, where it will make the two-hour trek southeast to the Queen City. Among those in attendance will be Dylan’s parents, Erick and Georgiana, Dylan’s brother and sister and both sets of his grandparents.
Also making the trip will be Dylan’s Little League teammates and coaches and their families. Ellis said the group will get the opportunity to go onto the field before the game and mingle with the players.
The Little League team is also receiving its own helmets, courtesy of Ellis and Rawlings.
“It’s about getting these kids out there and these families and honestly just letting them have a good time,” Ellis said Tuesday from Coors Field in Denver, where the Dodgers were preparing to play the Colorado Rockies. “Let them enjoy a ball game, hop on a bus and just enjoy being around each other and just have a good day together.”
Ellis — a native of Rapid City, S.D. — said he hopes those kids in attendance at Saturday’s game get as much enjoyment out of the Major League atmosphere as he did when he would go to Minnesota Twins games as a youngster.
“Just seeing the stadium, just getting out of the car and looking at the ... ballpark and just the greatness of it and going in there and watching Major League Baseball players play,” Ellis said of his memories. “So we want to kind of shine a light back on baseball in this time where they’re going through a little bit of trouble.”
Erick Williams said it was difficult to put into words how appreciative his family was of Ellis’ generosity.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed, really,” he said. “Because, like you said, they’re not even from around here. They have their own family. They’ve got three kids, and for them to take time out to organize and plan and want to do something to honor our son, I mean, we appreciate it so much that they’ll never know how much it does mean to us.”