Ballpark Digest, one of the nation's foremost online sites devoted to baseball, has selected the Cape Cod Baseball League for one of its major annual awards.
The web-site announced today (Jan. 30) that the Cape League has been chosen for its Editor's Choice Award in recognition of the league’s 2011 “Spaceball” project which sent a baseball into space in memory of Christina-Taylor Green, 9, the youngest victim of the Tucson, Ariz., shootings last January that killed six and wounded six others, including a U.S. congresswoman.
Publisher Kevin Reichard said, "Each year we like to honor something special in the baseball world. Christina's tragic death touched the hearts of many ... the Cape Cod League deserves this recognition for the special ways it honored her memory."
Those "special ways" included arranging for a Cape League baseball to be carried into space on the final mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, piloted by Capt. Mark Kelly, husband of the wounded congresswoman, Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords, and presenting the ball to Christina's parents and brothers at its All-Star Game on July 29 at Fenway Park in Boston, a game which was dedicated to the little girl's memory.
NASA astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman made the presentation in moving pre-game ceremonies which included a ceremonial first pitch thrown by Christina's brother, Dallas. His parents, John and Roxanna Green, accepted the baseball. The ceremonies also included a video presentation in which U.S. Congressman Bill Keating read a letter to the Greens from President Obama.
Congresswoman Giffords, who last week resigned from Congress to concentrate on her recovery, was shot in the head by a crazed gunman while holding a public meeting with constituents at a Tucson strip mall on a sunny Saturday morning in January 2011. The assailant, Jared Loughner, sprayed bullets into the crowd, killing six people including Christina. Twelve others were wounded, including the congresswoman, who suffered critical brain injuries.
Shortly after the shootings, Cape League officials learned that the 9-year-old victim was the daughter of Los Angeles Dodgers East Coast scouting supervisor John Green and his wife Roxanna and the granddaughter of Dallas Green, who managed the Philadelphia Phillies to the 1980 World Series championship. John was well known throughout the league and he frequently brought his daughter with him as he evaluated prospects at Cape League games.
Cape League officials immediately began discussions about how best to honor the memory of the third-grader who had dreamed of being the first woman to play Major League Baseball and had told her parents that when she grew up, she wanted to buy a house on Cape Cod so the family could spend every summer together.
Eventually, the Spaceball plan evolved and after some frantic phone calls and email exchanges, arrangements were worked out with NASA to carry a Cape Cod League baseball to the International Space Station, have it signed by Endeavour's six crew members and eventually returned to Cape Cod so it could be displayed before being presented to Christina's family.
The unique ball soared into the heavens on board Endeavour on May 16, 2011, and returned 15 days later after a 6.5-million mile journey that included 248 orbits of the Earth. The signed ball finally arrived back on Cape Cod in mid-July, just in time to be displayed briefly before being transported to Boston on July 29 for the surprise presentation to the Green family.
"In a sea of commercial promotions, the steps taken by the Cape Cod Baseball League to honor Green really stand out," Ballpark Digest publisher Reichard said. "She was a special girl, and her memory was well-served by the league's actions."
Now in their fourth season, the Ballpark Digest Awards honor noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Readers submit nominations for awards in specific categories, then editors go through the submissions (which numbered some 500 pages of documentation last year) to select the winners. The awards cover both individual accomplishments as well as team accomplishments. A complete listing can be found at www.ballparkdigest.com/awards.
Ballpark Digest is recognized as one of the nation's leading sources of baseball information. The web site has covered the culture and business of baseball since its inception in 2002 and has been called an "indispensable" guide to baseball and ballparks by The New York Times; it has been used as a source by publications and web sites ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Epicurious.com.
Ballpark Digest is published by August Publications of Middleton, Wis. Its other leading web sites include SpringTrainingOnline.com, ArenaDigest.com and YellowstoneInsider.com.
Joe Sherman, Cape League special projects coordinator, who worked with Commissioner Paul A. Galop and President Judy Scarafile to make the Spaceball project a reality, said, “We thank publisher Kevin Reichard and the editors of Ballpark Digest for recognizing the story behind the story – our desire to memorialize a very special little girl whose tragic death touched us very deeply. We would also like to publicly acknowledge the cooperation we received from NASA, shuttle commander Capt. Mark Kelly and astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman. And we extend our heartfelt thanks to John, Roxanna and young Dallas Green for their gracious acceptance of the unique baseball that now occupies a place of honor in their home.”
John Garner, Director of Public Relations & Broadcasting
Geoff Converse, Senior Editor