Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Josh Hancock and John O'Toole: Their Separate Peace

“The Lord deals death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises us up again."
–I Samuel 2:6

As many of you, at least the sports fans among Fighting Irish Thomas readers, are aware, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, 29, was killed in an automobile accident Saturday night. But up until now, none of you know that John O'Toole, our 21-year-old son, was almost killed in a car crash last night, as a driver inexplicably swerved off the road and nearly hit John (who was walking home from the Elmhurst train station) finally smashing through a storefront window.

Both Josh and John were single. While one earned millions of dollars and the other was a college student with but a couple of bucks in his pocket, there were many similarities. Both were pursuing what they truly loved; Josh baseball and John acting. Both were open and outgoing and while neither was particularly devout, both had hopes for the future, on this earth and beyond. Neither was perfect; John often kidded about his weight, gaining 20-25 pounds on his six foot frame during the winter only to lose it all caddying during the hot Midwestern summers. And Josh was actually cut by the Cincinnati Reds for being overweight last spring. But the Reds loss was the Cardinals gain, as Josh lead St. Louis in relief innings pitched, attaining a World Series ring in the process. Just a few days ago, Josh worried his teammates by missing the pre-game warm-ups, only to arrive just before game time, wearing the sheepish grin of a youth who overslept. Meanwhile this morning, John, who understandably couldn't sleep last night, finally dozed off and woke up late; for the first time in years, I drove my self-reliant son to the train station. Yet one lived and one did not ...

"Josh was a guy who went out and played his heart out every single day he stepped on the field. You honor him by doing the same," said Brewer manager Ned Yost, explaining that while cancelling Sunday's Cardinal-Cub game was appropriate, postponing last night's Cardinal-Brewer game would not be. "There's a lot of sadness and grieving," said Cardinal manager Tony La Russa, whose players all wore shoulder patches with Hancock's #32 to commemorate their fallen teammate, "but you have to go on." Ironically, Jeff Suppan, the Brewers starting pitcher Monday night, pitched with Josh last season, winning the MVP of the Cardinals National League Playoff Series in the process. "Jeff was a great teammate," said Suppan, a devout Catholic who serves on the Pontifical Council of Church and Sport (and visited with Pope Benedict this off-season). "I'm not saying it was easy. I just went out and tried to do my best," 'Soup' said after beating the Cards in a masterfully pitched 7-1 complete game. "Of course, we managers always worry about the wins and losses," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella when his Sunday game with the Cards was cancelled, "but when something like this happens, it puts things in perspective rather quickly."

Meanwhile, John's dad whose Champions of Faith book sits on the Vatican shelves where the Pontifical Council of Church and Sport meet, still has the awesome task of counseling his lucky, if slightly shaky son. "He's a friend and will always be in my heart," said pitcher Jason Marquis of ex-teammate Hancock, whom he also described as "fun and generous." "My thoughts and prayers are with him ..." Funny, that was almost exactly what I will say to John. The only difference is I can still say it to his face.

Fighting Irish Thomas: Catholicism, Politics, Saints, and Notre Dame

1 comment :

Pristinus Sapienter said...

Was your John's near-murderer 'driving under the influence' as poor Josh was? It is sad how 'DUI' becomes a marker of how we can get so 'LUI'- living under the influence of temptations entertained and even welcomed.

Maybe that is why, while we pray and hope for mercy, we are somewhat astonished at receiving it. We just blind ourselves to our worthiness for God's graces and Sacrifice for mercy, and we find ourselves feeling unworthy when mercy comes (and powerfully!) our way.

May God's abundant mercy find His Way into your lives, always.