White Sox caps pay tribute to NIU
Campus shooting tragedy hits close to home for organization
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Taking the first step in preparing for the 2008 season held the White Sox focus Saturday, as pitchers and catchers reported to the Kino Sports Complex for physicals and their first workouts.
But even in Arizona, one time zone and close to 2,000 miles away, thoughts of the horrific events that unfolded Thursday at Northern Illinois University weighed heavily on the minds of the organization.
"More than anything, it's a Chicago thing," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams, who wore an NIU baseball cap around the complex Saturday, as did manager Ozzie Guillen, in memory of the five people killed in a lecture hall by a gunman, who then took his own life.
"It's our way of showing a little bit of support and understanding," Williams added. "We've been talking about it all morning. It's hard to figure when the bulk of your worrying as a parent is supposed to be over, you send your kids to college, and now you have to worry about a whole new element."
The NIU campus sits 65 miles west of Chicago. Williams had a direct connection through a niece who once attended school there and a couple of friends that played basketball for the Huskies a few years back.
For Guillen, the connection was more a sign of respect for the fallen and their grieving families. During a postgame interview session last year, Guillen wore a Virginia Tech hat in memory of the 32 people killed by a deranged gunman on April 16.
"We are behind them and pray for their families, and hopefully we can control this pretty soon," said Guillen, sitting near the batting cages after Saturday's morning workout. "Every year, we have some problem like this in the schools. It's something sad to see in this country to happen."
While the concern was clearly there from the White Sox, answers as to how such an atrocity could happen or how to prevent something like this happening again weren't nearly as prevalent. Mark Buehrle, an avid hunter, owns guns, as do members of his family.
Buehrle pointed out, though, how it's impossible to equate hunting with a lone, cowardly figure opening fire at a college or a shopping center. He explained the background check used when legally buying a gun, searching for past felonies. He also spoke of a recent conversation with his wife, Jamie, in which he expressed a desire to carry a gun, inherently out of protection for his family, but also out of fear that a tragedy taking place last Thursday at NIU could happen at any time.
"I told [his wife] that I wouldn't mind learning to be a cop so I can legally carry a gun," Buehrle said. "It's getting kind of scary. You walk into a mall and there could be a shooting, or a grocery store.
"But if you do that for everyone, it will become a free for all," Buehrle added.
Williams recounted one final story of walking in on his youngest son, who is now 17, playing a video game one year ago where gang members were killing policemen and citizens on the street. Williams immediately destroyed the game and initially became upset with his son.
"Then I realized, 'Hey, wait a minute, he didn't make the game, he didn't market the game, he didn't produce the game,'" Williams said. "I'm not saying there's any relation. I'm just saying there are elements out there now that kind of are shaping our young people's minds, and the lines between right and wrong are getting blurred.
"That's supposed to be the time of their lives and the time of your life, too," added Williams, referring to young adults going off to college. "We've now sent four, four of our five, and hopefully the fifth will go next year, and I just can't imagine getting that phone call."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.