Father of Sandy Hook victim will throw out first pitch at Rangers' home opener

Posted Friday, Mar. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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ARLINGTON - The night before she died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, 6-year-old Emilie Parker consoled her father over the Los Angeles Angels' signing of Josh Hamilton, one Rangers fan to another.

In a text message read by his brother at a fundraiser in January for the shooting victims, Robbie Parker recalled how, after he and his daughter heard of Hamilton's departure as a free agent, she suggested that the family go out to dinner to cheer him up.

"It worked," wrote Robbie Parker in the text read by Jeremie Parker of Keller, "and we had a very memorable dinner together ... talking about how great the Rangers would do this year anyway!!"

Emilie's spirit will be felt at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 5 when the Rangers play the Angels in their home opener. On Friday, the team announced that Robbie Parker, accompanied by his wife, Alissa, and Emilie's sisters Madeline and Samantha, will throw the ceremonial first pitch in a moment that might well draw the loudest cheers of the afternoon.

The event is part of baseball's plans to honor the victims of the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. At each team's home opener, players, managers, coaches, umpires and on-field personnel will wear a patch designed with the Newtown seal, a black ribbon and a star for each of the 26 victims. A pre-game moment of silence will also be held.

"Major League Baseball, all 30 clubs and baseball fans from around the country and Canada offer our deepest sympathies and our unbridled support as the community continues to heal from this heartbreaking day," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

Robbie Parker, who grew up in North Texas, is a longtime Rangers fan. Chuck Morgan, Rangers executive vice president of ballpark entertainment, and John Blake, executive vice president of communications, discussed the idea of having him throw out the first pitch, and CEO Nolan Ryan approved it immediately.

"It was an honor for me to call Robbie and invite him and his family to Arlington for Opening Day," Morgan said. "It is something I will never forget. And then after talking with Robbie, it was interesting to learn how much a fan and how important Rangers baseball is to him and his family."

In the text message, which Jeremie Parker also read on ESPN 103.3 FM, Robbie Parker described taking Emilie to Rangers games in Seattle and Boston as his medical education and clinical rotations sent him to various parts of the country.

"She stayed up with me to watch World Series games and shared my disappointment with me afterwards," he wrote.

At one game at Fenway Park, she snagged a home run ball hit in batting practice by Rangers outfielder David Murphy.

In the weeks after the tragedy, ESPN Dallas and the blogs The Newberg Report, Lone Star Ball and Baseball Time in Arlington helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for Emilie's Fund, which assists the victims' families.

In his text message, Robbie Parker thanked Dallas-Fort Worth for its love and support.

"I am so proud to be a Ranger fan, because I know that as a fan I actually belong to a community," he wrote. "I am glad I was able to share the community with my precious daughter and that the same community has reached out to her and let our family know that she is remembered and loved."

The Rangers and Angels will play at 1:05 p.m. April 5. The game is a sellout.

Staff writer Drew Davison contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Patrick M. Walker, 682-232-4674

Twitter: @patrickmwalker1

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