Highland Park baseball takes the field in Winnetka
Wilmette Waves welcome Giants with ‘distraction’ — including banners, ribbons and postgame meal — following Fourth of July tragedy
For much of the previous 50 hours, the Kasdins — like many Highland Park families — needed to be in front of a screen.
Following a mass shooting on Monday, July 4, just two blocks from their Highland Park home, Crystal and Chad Kasdin and their two teenaged children consumed news alerts on television and social media in between back-and-forth communication with friends and family on their cellphones.
A welcome respite from the unspeakable tragedy came on Wednesday afternoon, when the Kasdins stood fenceside at Duke Childs Field in Winnetka to watch their son, Louie, and the Highland Park Giants play baseball.
“Any distraction other than watching the news or reading social media is welcome,” Chad Kasdin said. “I don’t really care whose son is playing. I just want to go watch a baseball game, take my mind off things.”
The summer baseball doubleheader provided about a four-hour diversion from painful and constant reflection on the mass shooting, which took the lives of seven individuals and injured more than 40 others on the Fourth of July.
The Giants canceled their baseball games Tuesday but told Mike Napoleon — coach of their opponent, the Wilmette Waves — that they wanted to take the field on Wednesday.
“I talked to (HP head coach Jason Newburger) and he said the kids needed a little outlet,” Napoleon said. “They wanted to play today.”
Upon hearing that the games were on, the Waves community went to work on efforts to welcome their Highland Park neighbors.
Napoleon said during the team’s practice on Tuesday, July 5, the players asked, “Can we do something?” and decided to make orange ribbons for both programs and put together a post-game meal for the teams. Napoleon said Waves parents came through with the food and also had two blue “HP Strong” banners printed.
The banners hung along the outfield wall, while the players on both side wore the orange ribbons — representing anti-gun violence — on their caps.
“I applaud our kids and their kids for coming,” Napoleon said. “Even though it’s just a four-hour stint, it gives them a chance to get their minds off things for a few hours.”
Paul Harris, the athletic director at Highland Park High School, was on hand in Winnetka and thanked the Waves.
“It is a road game, but they made us feel at home,” he said.
Harris shared the same thoughts on social media, commenting on both the baseball game and a football competition in which the Giants visited Antioch High School for a 7-on-7. The Antioch Sequoit football program also welcomed Highland Park with a banner.
“A heartfelt thank you to the Antioch Community and especially @SequoitFootball for their support today. It was more than a 7 on 7 for our players. We are so grateful!,” Harris posted on the account @HPHS_Athletics.
On the field, the Waves topped the Giants 8-1 on both sides of the doubleheader.
While thankful for the break, the Kasdins were already thinking about what happens next.
A long road to healing is underway, and the couple wondered out loud how they could possibly explain to their children how mass murder is “not a normal thing.” Both of the Kasdins children practice active-shooter response in their schools and have seen news reports about mass shootings throughout their formative years.
“Maybe in their minds because they learn about it every day it’s normal for them,” Chad Kasdin said.
Crystal Kasdin added, “We’ve talked to others about how it’s sickly ironic that it happened on July 4, because this is now America.”
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319