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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Players throughout Major League Baseball wore caps with an “SD” logo Friday to honor the 17 victims of the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

For Colorado Rockies minor leaguer Colton Welker, the gesture hit especially close to home.

Welker, a top infield prospect in the Rockies’ system, played for Stoneman Douglas’ state title team in 2016 and was a fourth-round draft pick by Colorado in June of that year. Along with Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Oakland Athletics minor-league pitcher Jesus Luzardo, he’s one of three alumni of the Parkland high school playing in the Cactus League this spring.

Welker, called upon to pinch-hit by Rockies manager Bud Black in the eighth inning Friday, was robbed of a hit by Arizona’s Rey Fuentes in a line drive to center field. He came on to play third base and flied out to center field again in the 10th inning of the Diamondbacks’ 7-6 victory.

“There were definitely a lot of emotions after the tragedy,” Welker told ESPN after the game. “To come out here and get to strap it on with the big team felt good. The last time I wore this hat I was over there (in Parkland) playing baseball. That’s what got me here, so it meant a lot to me.

“I tried not to make it a big deal of it today. But it was very cool to be out there with these guys and watch them work and watch what the best do every day. It’s just a great experience being around them.”

Welker was friends with Parkland athletic director Chris Hixon and football coach Aaron Feis, both of whom died along with 14 students and a teacher in the Feb. 14 shooting. Feis, who was killed while throwing himself in front of students to protect them, was a security guard at the school and let Welker into the building each day.

As a middle school student in Parkland, Walker rode the bus to school each day with Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who confessed to the killings.

“All my friends are still down there,” Welker said. “My mom still lives down there. She says the town is quiet and it’s still healing. It’s going to take some time after something like that happens. But they’re doing a great job regrouping and staying together and staying strong. They’ll get back to school soon and get athletics going, and that will be good.”

Welker, ranked as the Rockies’ No. 7 prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, has hit .341 with a .496 slugging percentage in his first two minor-league stops with Grand Junction of the Pioneer League and Asheville of the South Atlantic. As he embarks upon his third professional season, his heart and mind are constantly with the people back home in Parkland.

“That’s where I want to raise my kids,” Welker said. “It’s the greatest place on earth. They have great schools all the way from elementary through high school. It’s a beautiful place to grow up. I’m beyond proud to say I’m from there.

“It’s sickening to know that our name is on the map for that, and not for the other great things that we’ve accomplished. But (baseball) is something I can use to help people, and maybe represent the school and lift people up even more.”

The Rockies were among many teams to wear the Stoneman Douglas caps on Friday, with several managers taking time to reflect on how baseball can offer a diversion.

“Anytime people are hurting, and we know the community is hurting right now, baseball can sometimes play a part with the healing process,” New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “And so to honor them and try and have a little bit of thoughts and prayers and our thoughts are with people who are hurting, it’s something small that it was cool to be a part of.”

More than 2,500 of the Stoneman Douglas caps were ordered from New Era, MLB spokesman Steven Arrocho said, with many of them expected to be signed and auctioned off to benefit those affected by the shooting.

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday’s gesture “puts everything in perspective.”

“Wearing the hats today, I think that means a lot to all of us. It puts everything in perspective,” Cora said. “Something that obviously, it gets your attention. My daughter turns 15 in a few weeks, and I got an email the other day from her school talking about them having a drill. That’s not normal.”

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Vi Ripken, matriarch of famed Baltimore Orioles family, dies at 82

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ABERDEEN, Md. — Vi Ripken, matriarch of the famed Orioles family that includes Hall of Fame son Cal Ripken Jr., has died. She was 82.

Family spokesman John Maroon said Sunday that she died on Friday, a day before her birthday, in Aberdeen, where a youth stadium carries the Ripken name.

Violet and Cal Ripken Sr. married in 1957, and he spent four decades in the Baltimore system as a player, minor league coach and manager. He managed the Orioles in 1987 and early 1988, when sons Cal Jr. and Billy played infield for him.

She also made headlines in 2012 after being the victim of a bizarre kidnapping. Police said she was kidnapped at gunpoint at her home in Aberdeen and driven around blindfolded by her abductor. She was found bound and unharmed about 24 hours later in her car near her home. The case was never solved.

Vi Ripken was involved for many years in local and charitable organizations in the Maryland area.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Vi Ripken,” the Baltimore Ravens said in a statement. “The Ripkens are engrained in the fabric of the greater Baltimore community, and Vi played a significant role in helping establish their family’s strong legacy. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her children and grandchildren during this sorrowful time.”

She is survived by sons Cal Jr., Billy and Fred and daughter Elly. Grandson Ryan Ripken, a minor leaguer in the Baltimore system, played Sunday in the Orioles’ exhibition game against Pittsburgh.

Cal Sr. died in 1999.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Baltimore Orioles’ Trey Mancini gets standing ovation, singles in return from cancer

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Trey Mancini received a standing ovation and applause from both dugouts Sunday during his first live at-bat after missing the 2020 season while recovering from State 3 colon cancer.

When the Baltimore Orioles first baseman came up in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he drew a nice round of applause as he approached the batter’s box and waved to the crowd. The cheers kept growing, with pitcher Chad Kuhl stepping off the mound and umpire Will Little cleaning the plate to prolong the salute.

After tipping his cap in acknowledgement of the applause, Mancini then punctuated his return with a single to center in his first spring training at-bat Sunday, against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Chad Kuhl.

“It was amazing,” Mancini told reporters when asked about the ovation. “I almost teared up a little bit, I’m not going to lie, when I was up there and everybody gave me a standing ovation and I saw all the guys on the field clapping on the Pirates, clapping in the dugout, our team and all our fans.

“It meant the world to me. It was a really, really cool moment and one of the favorite moments of my baseball career. I think it was a huge day for me, personally, getting back in a game. Just another kind of milestone that I can check off here.”

After producing 35 home runs and 97 RBIs for the Orioles in 2019, Mancini seemed primed for even bigger things. But after playing just five exhibitions last year, he needed to end his season to have surgery for colon cancer.

“It’s almost a year to the day when I was last in a game, so it definitely felt like a moment where we came full circle a little bit,” Mancini, who who turns 29 in a few weeks, said Sunday. “I thought more about everything that happened today than I have in a long time. I’ve mostly tried to in a lot of ways just move on and not think too much about last year. But today I ran through all the tough days that we had and really tried to appreciate and cherish today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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San Diego Padres OF Tommy Pham lucky to be playing again after stabbing

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SAN DIEGO — Tommy Pham knows how lucky he was to be in the starting lineup for the San Diego Padres in their spring opener on Sunday, 4½ months after he was stabbed in the lower back during an altercation in the parking lot of a strip club.

It could have been much worse.

“The cut’s deep. The doctor here basically told me if I wasn’t so muscular, I might be dead or paralyzed,” the left fielder said during a videoconference with reporters from Peoria, Arizona.

“I’m lucky. I’m lucky to even be able to play.”

As he was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance on Oct. 11, three nights after the Padres were eliminated from the playoffs, Pham was on the phone with general manager A.J. Preller and trainer Mark Rogow.

“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play,” Pham recalls telling the club officials.

“When I got the CT scan, the doc was like, ‘I’ve got great news for you. You can play.’ She just said it’s going to be a little bit of a recovery.”

Pham said late last year that he needed 200 stitches to close the gash. A video posted online showed the lower part of his white shirt soaked in blood.

The San Diego Police Department is still investigating, and no arrests have been made.

Preller said Sunday that “obviously it’s not the type of news you’re expecting, ever, that type of phone call.”

Preller said Pham was “just matter of fact in terms of talking about what happened. The biggest focus for us was just making sure that we were in a position to get our doctors on the case and try to make sure we were being smart to give him every possible advantage in the care he needed at that point.”

Preller said the first thing that stood out “is how lucky he was, when you’re talking about a stab wound really in any area, but that was as deep and extensive as it was. If it was a centimeter in either direction, maybe a different outcome. Once we got past that hurdle, with his work ethic and the way he attacks things and gets in the gym and takes care of himself, he was going to give himself every possible opportunity to come back.

“He’s in great shape. Obviously he had some different injury stuff last year. I think he’s ready to go.”

Pham said his recovery included bedrest and then he flew to San Francisco every week for about six weeks to get injections of Regenokine to help with the inflammation.

“I worked with a few doctors on getting to where I’m at because it’s only been about 4½ months and the timeline is normally a little bit longer,” he said.

The injury affects him when he tries to do squats and deadlifts in the weight room.

“My norms aren’t there yet. You don’t really have to squat a lot or deadlift a lot to be a good baseball player,” he said.

After being traded from Tampa Bay Rays to San Diego, the 32-year-old Pham was limited to 31 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season due to an injury to his left hand that required surgery in mid-August. He hit .211 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. He hit .375 in the playoffs.

He had another hand surgery in October.

He says he’s at about 80%.

“I probably have the most to prove because I had a terrible year,” said Pham, who rattled off a number of analytics that were down. “Plus, this is my free agent year as well. So I feel like I have the most to prove.”

Pham said his perspective hasn’t changed since the stabbing.

“I still look at everything almost the same. If anything, I probably would just spend more money and stop saving as much, because if I died I would feel like I had too much money in the bank and I didn’t live enough.”

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