Sixth-grader dies after ball hits him during Wheaton baseball game
BY JEFF MAYES, JAMES SCALZITTI AND MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporters April 13, 2012 12:33PM
Updated: April 13, 2012 3:13PM
A suburban 12-year-old boy described as an inspiration to his baseball teammates died after being hit in the neck with a baseball at game in Wheaton, a freak accident that has left his teammates, family and coaches “beside themselves.”
Eric Lederman of Oswego died from his injury at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge at 8:04 p.m. Thursday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
A spokesman for Oswego Community Unit School District 308 said Eric was a sixth-grader at Thompson Junior High School in Oswego who was playing for the Oswego Panthers U12 traveling team. The game was being played at Atten Park, Wheaton police said.
The Oswego Softball and Baseball Association traveling team, which is not affiliated with the schools, was playing a game in Wheaton on Wednesday evening when the boy was accidentally struck in the neck with a ball and collapsed on the field, Kristine Liptrot said.
John Thorson, executive president of the association, said Eric was hit in the neck by a ball thrown to him during warm-ups.
Eric was initially taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove and later taken by helicopter to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, where he died, Liptrot said.
“I’ve played baseball many years and in college and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Thorson said. “It’s a tragic freak accident.”
“Right now we’re concentrating all our efforts on the family and the team and the coaching staff,” Thorson said. “They are all literally beside themselves.”
His coach, Brian Zacker, said in a statement Friday that Eric “was an inspiration to his teammates, coaches and baseball family.” He played in-house baseball for two years, followed by travel baseball for three years, wearing No. 2 and playing catcher, third base and center field.
“He played with an infectious smile and played the game with tremendous passion and heart,” Zacker said. “His trademark move was to clap his batting gloves together continuously when he got on base to distract the pitcher. We could always hear when he was on base.
“He was also the comedian of the team. Whether we lost 2-1 or 20-1, he would always say something in our post-game huddle that would make us laugh. He brought a tremendous amount of joy, passion, and love to his team, coaches, and baseball family and we will never forget him. He may have been No. 2 in the field, but he will always be No. 1 in our hearts.”
Liptrot said Eric was a member of the wrestling team at the junior high, where employees said he had great character and a wonderful sense of humor.
“Eric was always willing to help out: in practice, at meets or in the hallways,” she said. “His caring attitude towards his peers, quick wit and dedication to teamwork are things that will be remembered about him at Thompson Junior High.”
Thorson said the league is working to set up a memorial to Eric, and added that a patch or decal worn by fellow athletes could be part of that effort.
Counselors, social workers and nurses will be available at Thompson and throughout the district to help students or adults deal with the loss, Liptrot said.
“This is a tragic loss that will affect students, staff, faculty and parents throughput the school district,” she said. “Eric’s teammates go to four different schools in the district, he has a sibling at the high school, and his mother is an employee of our food service vendor.”
Information on funeral services and arrangements will be posted on the baseball association’s website at Oswego PONY Baseball and Softball.