World

Texas students take solace in baseball after school shooting

Thirty-six hours after several of their schoolmates were gunned down, Santa Fe High School athletes took the field on Saturday to play a game of baseball.

The setting sun cast a golden glow as umpires dusted red dirt off the home plate and the crowd settled in the seats, in preparation for a game that until Friday's killings was not expected to attract much attention.

Eight students and two teachers were killed and 13 others wounded when a teenage classmate armed with a pistol and shotgun opened fire in the Santa Fe High School.

When the announcer introduced the Santa Fe Indians - whose pitcher Rome Shubert was shot in the back of the head by the gunman, survived and joined his team for the opening line-up - the crowd of about 1,000 erupted in cheers.

The team had voted to play its Saturday play-off game as a show of strength and a means of catharsis in the face of tragedy.

"This is very, very important,"Andie Martinez, a 16-year-old Santa Fe junior, told AFP before the crowd rose for a moment of silence.

The accused shooter, identified as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, "tried to break us apart but the community stands strong".

"I am so greatful (sic) and blessed that God spared my life today," pitcher Shubert wrote on Twitter, barely five hours after he was shot. "Today I was shot in the back of the head but I am completely okay and stable."

Trent Beazley, a catcher on the team, was also injured when a bullet grazed his side.

Neither teen played, but both suited up and sat in the dugout to cheer on their teammates.

"The town needed this," said a player's father, who watched from behind home plate.

Emma Clark, a Santa Fe senior who is set to graduate in two weeks said: "It is the day after the shooting and everybody is here. And they get a chance to see how amazing they are and how humble they are.

"At the end of the day, they are going to do what they love," she said of the team.

"So I feel like it probably has affected them, but it (also) has made them stronger." - AFP

WORLD