N.C. 6th grader dies when hit in head by baseball
He was hit by a line drive at batting practice; coaches performed CPR until paramedics arrived, but he died at the hospital
By Kate Elizabeth Queram
WILMINGTON, N.C. — A close-knit community of Wilmington baseball families was rocked Friday evening when a Roland-Grise Middle School sixth-grader died after being hit by a ball during practice at the school.
Alex Newsome, a left-handed pitcher, was throwing at batting practice when he was hit in the head by a line drive around 4 p.m. Newsome, a manager for the middle-school team, was pitching from behind a protective screen, but had leaned slightly outside the net.
Coach Michael Titzel and assistant coach Dereck Boone performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Boone was with Alex in the ambulance as paramedics rushed him to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He died there around 9:20 p.m., according to reports.
News of the accident spread quickly among baseball players and their parents, and more than 50 people gathered at the hospital Friday with Alex's coaches and his parents, Garrick and Brandie Newsome.
“We were at the hospital last night,” said Amy Gaylord, whose son has played with Alex for years. “There are no words to describe how we felt when we learned he was gone.”
Throughout the evening and night, community members posted messages on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #NewsomeStrong; several dozen populated the Twitter feed by Saturday morning. A picture of Alex, posted by the cross-county rival Laney Baseball team, was retweeted 62 times.
“It was just word of mouth. It's a small community,” said Kevin Gaylord, who coached Alex for three years on the Wilmington Waves travel team. “A lot of people know each other through Winter Park Optimist, and they know Alex and think a lot of him.”
The 11-year-old played on a handful of local teams for years, most through the Winter Park league. Several years ago, he was the first pick in the 10-year-old draft, and made the All-Star team every year he was eligible, according to Mike Smith, a coach and co-commissioner with the league.
“He's a good kid. He could strike out 100 times and still come back smiling,” Smith said. “It never seemed to bother him. He just had a good time, and that's what it's about.”
He was smart, friendly and courteous, Gaylord said.
“He's just a really special kid, very intelligent, very polite, with great manners for 11-year-old, more than what you typically would see,” he said. “You just never heard a bad thing come out of his mouth. You never heard him bully anybody, talk bad or raise his voice. He was just friends with everybody.”
Multiple teams decided Saturday to cancel their games next week, including the major league at Winter Park Optimist, for which Alex played. Others, like his former travel team, had yet to make decisions on upcoming tournaments, but Gaylord said the coaches would address the matter with players either way.
“Our next tournament is the last weekend in April, and we've got to sit down with our parents and decide if we even want to play in that,” Gaylord said. “But it will come up before then. I think it's probably shaken up a lot of the kids.”
The University of North Carolina Wilmington held a moment of silence for Alex prior to a baseball game Saturday at Brooks Field. Some players at Hoggard High School approached their coach about being at the Roland-Grise field when the middle school players trek back to the diamond for the first time. Impact Church pastor Donnie King will talk about the loss during his Sunday sermon.
“Several of our students and parents are asking questions and trying to make sense of it all,” King said in an email to the Impact and Halo Sports community.
The New Hanover County school district released a statement informing parents and students that grief counseling would be available for staff members and students throughout next week.
“Staff, coaches, parents, the principal and superintendent of the district were all at the hospital after the accident to offer support to the family, classmates, teachers and friends of Alex,” the statement said. “The district also had social workers available and will continue to offer grief counseling and support for any students and staff who may need it.”
In the meantime, the local baseball community will join together to move forward, as they did at the hospital and online, Smith said.
“As an organization, we're going to get together and figure out what is the best way to go forward. Because you have to go forward,” he said. “It's just a tough, tragic thing. We will get together and take care of each other.”