RiverDogs ballpark is hosting a youth match that has been marked by violence

On the evening of April 25, at Pepperhill Park in North Charleston, SC, the shooting of a youth baseball game between the North Charleston Recreation Royals and Angels stopped. What had been a routine night on the ball court turned into chaos and fear, as players, coaches and parents ran for cover.
No one was injured in the shooting. The perpetrators, who were involved in an altercation in a nearby parking lot, have not yet been arrested. A video of the horrific incident circulated widely, and the baseball community – locally and nationally – quickly responded. On a Tuesday evening at the Charleston River Dogs home owned by Joseph P. Riley Jr. Ballpark, the baseball diamond becomes a place of healing and togetherness. The April 25 match, which was severely interrupted, continued to its conclusion.
The North Charleston Royals and Angels, made up of players ages 9 and 10, took the field ahead of a regularly scheduled competition between the visiting RiverDogs and the visiting Fayetteville Woodpeckers. The youth teams played the final two rounds of their choppy game, giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents while interacting with players from RiverDogs and Woodpeckers—single-A affiliates of the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros, respectively.
“It was an easy brainstorming process for us: Let’s get these kids out onto the field to play a game. It only took one phone call to the North Charleston Entertainment Department, to get in touch with them to see if they were comfortable with it,” said Dave Echols, president of RiverDogs. The city was comfortable with that, and the police department was comfortable with it. Everyone on board was so excited.”
The RiverDogs soon received calls from Major League Baseball and Senator Tim Scott, both of whom provided additional funding for the festivities. Meanwhile, the Rays sent out hats to the young players. North Charleston Entertainment Director T.J. Rustin praised the outpouring of support, saying the event helped players and their families “put the events [April 25] behind them.”
“It couldn’t have had a greater impact on these children and their families,” he said. “The kids, on the playground, in the bunker, were smiling from ear to ear. The parents and the coaches too. There were the coaches, 40-year-old men who felt 9 and 10 again.”
Several young athletes requested autographs from the Charleston and Fayetteville players, but River Dogs player Jack Snyder overturned the script.
“I knew when I was that age, I loved getting autographs. But I wanted to sign them because of what they’ve been through, and now they’re here today. It’s something I look forward to,” Snyder, who has collected autographs for young baseball players, said. They come out here and have a lot of fun. It’s a good reminder that this game is meant to be fun.”
Tuesday’s invitation was extended to the Joseph B. Riley Jr. Ballpark for all athletes participating in the baseball and softball programs at North Charleston Recreation. After the conclusion of the youth game, the guests of honor were treated to a picnic. A recent notable event was given by Chris Singleton, director of community outreach for RiverDogs, a former minor league baseball player whose mother was killed in the Charleston Emmanuel AME Church shooting. Singleton is now a popular motivational speaker, delivering the message that “love is stronger than hate”.
Major League Baseball stars also contributed to the outpouring of support, much to the surprise of young players. Boston Red Sox player Jackie Bradley Jr. who attended University of South Carolina sent a sympathetic and supportive video message. Wyatt Merrifield, the Kansas City Royals’ second baseman, of South Carolina, spoke with the young players via Zoom.
“do you enjoyed it?” asked Merryfield, to which he answered a chorus of yes. “Hit any house blows?” This, inevitably, was answered in the negative. “Yes, it’s a big field,” Merfield admitted.
The North Charleston Angels emerged as the winner of the final on Tuesday, defeating the Royals by 8-2. But in this circumstance, the end result was largely irrelevant. The important thing is that they played the game.
“Hopefully we can get over what happened, get back to baseball and have the kids,” Rustin said. “That’s why we do what we do every day. We want them happy, we want them to play and we want to keep them out of harm’s way whenever possible.”
“It was one of those things that makes you feel good and it goes on all levels,” said Echols. “Baseball remains our national pastime, and provides the strongest bridge to come together. The stadium is a place to relax, feel good, and enjoy being with family and friends.”

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