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Barry M. Bloom

Family, MLB keeping memories of Green alive

Bloom: Keeping memories of Green alive

Family, MLB keeping memories of Green alive
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The night before she died, Christina-Taylor Green had a bad dream and went off to sleep in her mother's room. Perhaps it was a portent of the real-life nightmare to come. Her dad, John, slept in Christina's bed that night. And two months later, her room remains unchanged.

"I put her in our bed and slept in her room," John Green, a scout for the Dodgers, said in an extensive interview on Sunday. "Right now, we just want to keep it that way so those memories remain alive for a while. For at least a year, we're going to keep it the way it is."

Jan. 8 began just like any other Saturday morning. Christina was up early, excited about going with a neighbor to meet Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at the local Safeway. There was a cool nip in the air, and her mother, Roxanna, sent Christina back upstairs to get a sweatshirt. She went off happily. That was the last time they saw her. She was killed later that morning, during a 20-second shooting spree that took the lives of six people and wounded 13 others, including Giffords. Christina was 9 years old.

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On Monday, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox returned to Tucson for a charity exhibition game at what is now called Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. The proceeds benefited a fund set up in remembrance of Christina-Taylor. Money collected will buy much-needed equipment for schools as well as help children less fortunate than she was, her father said. Her mother manages the fund, which will first be used to build a new playground at Christina's Mesa Verde Elementary school.

"It's something they desperately need," Roxanna Green said. "They've had the same playground equipment for years and years and years. These are the kind of things Christina cared about."

John acknowledged that though the Greens lost their daughter that day, it is ironic how she was suddenly plucked from relative obscurity. Life can take odd and strange twists that way.

Christina has been mentioned by President Obama in speeches. Her initials appear on commemorative patches and pins that are being used as fundraisers. A purple wrist band is embossed with her name and the word, "HOPE." As the only girl playing in the Canyon del Oro Little League, she dreamt of becoming the first female Major League player. Now her No. 12 is hanging on the left-center field fence of the Tucson ballpark.

"It is kind of ironic," John said. "She was born on 9/11. Even on that day, she gave people hope. She was a person that used to help out other kids. All of the things that have happened after her death are directly related to her. She would've been proud to be part of all of this. It's very sad. We're not going to have her. But I think it's pretty cool."

Christina's death stunned the baseball world. Her grandfather -- John's father -- is Dallas Green, who managed the Phillies to the 1980 World Series title and is still a consultant with the franchise. Christina's 11-year-old brother, Dallas, who threw out one of the first pitches on Monday, is obviously named after him. John has been an amateur scout for 20 years with the Orioles, Pirates and, since 2008, the Dodgers. Those baseball ties run deep.

A bevy of baseball officials journeyed here for Christina's memorial service and funeral less than a week after she was murdered. The Dodgers and Phillies organizations were well represented.

"When [my wife] Sylvia and I got on the plane for Tucson that day, never in our wildest dreams did we realize it would hit the nation as it did," the elder Dallas Green said earlier this spring. "We thought it was just our family. But that little girl woke up an awful lot of people."

John said it was fortunate that the six of them -- he, Roxanna, Sylvia, Christina and the two guys named Dallas -- were all able to get together for Christmas vacation in the Caribbean a week before the tragic events.

"She was very, very close to them," John said. "I'm glad she got to spend some time with my dad and mom. It's been very, very tough for them, too."

Mostly it's been tough for the immediate family. In mid-February, John decided to go back out and do what scouts do best: scout. He's been on the road constantly. On Sunday, he went to Tony Gwynn Stadium at San Diego State for a baseball tournament. He arrived home late on Sunday night so he could be in attendance at Monday's event.

Once home, there was young Dallas to meet him, but no Christina, just the vestiges in her now empty room. Roxanna said that deep faith, friends and family have sustained them through the past few grueling months. And though there have been some smiles, they have been few and far between.

"My first instinct after this happened was to go home, bury ourselves in and not see anybody," John said. "I'm grateful that our friends and family didn't let us. I come home from the airport like I did last night and one of them is not there. It's something we're never going to forget, that's for sure. It's very difficult."

"We're comforted by the love we get every day from strangers," Roxanna added. "That's been helpful."

It hasn't eased the shock, they admitted, and they know that the shock may long remain.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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