Christina-Taylor Green played baseball for the Pirates. She would pull jersey No. 12 over her head, and in an instant, become one of the guys.
"She had just the right amount of shyness," one of the Pirates coaches, Mike Kochanski, remembers. "But she was definitely proud of her ability to hold her own with the boys."
The sisters of her teammates would marvel at her ability to play so ably in a game dominated by boys. The mothers and grandmothers in the bleachers would stop when Christina-Taylor came to bat.
"She was kind of a role model, she really was," says Pirates coach John Ward. "She was never afraid. A lot of people watched her. She made them proud."
Like her father, John, part of Arizona's 1985 College World Series pitching staff, and like her grandfather, Dallas, who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets, Christina-Taylor Green was a pitcher, and much more.
"A year ago, we had two girls on the team; it's not uncommon at that age," says Ward. "But Christina was different because she didn't find her way to softball. For a girl, baseball is usually a tougher route. The challenge appealed to her."
She was a lot like her dad.
"We recruited John out of Triton College, near Chicago, and he was a joy," says Jim Wing, the UA's retired pitching coach. "We had a pretty formidable crew that year, 1985. We had Joe Magrane, who went to the major leagues. We had Mike Young, who had been a No. 1 draft pick. We had Joe Estes, who set the school record for saves.
"To get a spot on that staff, especially a new guy coming in like John, you had to be passionate and you had to be tough. He was both."
When the Pirates did their conditioning work, running in the outfield the way her father and grandfather had done decades earlier, Christina-Taylor took charge. Running was to be expected; yes, all good ballplayers must run. But it didn't have to be an ordeal.
She proposed that the players race the coaches and, as was her spirit, Christina-Taylor negotiated the terms. The coaches would run backward; the players, motivated by the prize - free ice cream - would flat-out fly.
At the end of practice, the Pirates ate free ice cream. Baseball was fun. The young girl in jersey No. 12 was fun.
"After that first year, when Christina was to turn 9, we feared she would gravitate to softball and that we'd lose her," says Ward, who is an engineer in the home-building business. "She was just a joy. When we found out she chose to stay in baseball for a second year, we were happy, because she was reliable. We had 16 games, and she played in 15. She was committed."
And now she is dead. It is unimaginable.
There are about 450 ballplayers, boys and girls, in the Canyon del Oro Little League. When they begin play this spring, all of them will wear a patch on the sleeve of their uniforms. The initials CTG will be scripted in a red, white and blue design. What else would you expect for someone born on Sept. 11, 2001?
"We've already had Little League organizations from Virginia and from Florida contact us," says Kochanski, who is a certified public accountant. "They want to do something to remember Christina, too. We're going to do more than just the patch, but we're going to give it a little time and space. It is a little overwhelming right now."
At the funeral service for his daughter Thursday at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, John Green could have looked through the overflow crowd and been proud to see those from his baseball years, those who came to support him through this time of unspeakable grief. His old UA coach, Jerry Kindall, recovering from a stroke, made sure to be there. His old all-conference catcher, Steve Strong was there.
Christina-Taylor's memorial service wasn't about baseball. It was about the people she and her family have touched, many of them through baseball. It was about the people who did not know her, but may never forget her.
On Monday afternoon, sitting on the outfield grass at CDO High School, state championship softball coach Kelly Fowler and her team wrote letters to John and Roxanna Green.
"This was too real and too heavy on their hearts," says Fowler. "The girls realize that Christina was a future CDO student, a potential player on their field who will not get to live her life."
One of the Dorados wrote: "My mom started to cry because she said Christina reminded her of me when I was little; I played baseball and was on student council, too."
Another wrote: "You were such good parents to raise a child like her. You're so lucky to say that she was yours."
Saturday morning at 11, at the same church at which Christina-Taylor was eulogized, the CDO Little League will conduct registration for the 2011 baseball season.
The Pirates will start over, without her, wondering if the hurt will ever heal.
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or at email@example.com