PARKLAND, Fla. -- Just one day ago, he was wearing a blue Cubs workout shirt taking cracks in the batting cage at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. He didn't have to be at camp yet, but Anthony Rizzo was early to try to get a jump on his preparations for the 2018 season.
On Thursday, he was even quicker to jump at the chance to help the community he calls home.
Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday that left 17 students and teachers dead, Rizzo immediately departed Cubs' Spring Training to return to Florida to aid the community in any way he could.
So on Thursday night, it was Rizzo who took to the podium in a black shirt at a prayer vigil for the victims in Parkland, fighting off tears and offering whatever support he could give.
"I'm only who I am because of this community and I just want you all to know how proud I am to be apart of this community. I want to you know that you are not alone in your grief. We're all grieving with you. The entire country is grieving with you," said Rizzo to the crowd. "So whatever comfort I can give, I will give. Whatever support I can offer to our students, teachers, coaches, families and first responders, you'll have it."
Rizzo is a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and went from there to the Boston Red Sox organization, who picked him up in the sixth round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Since then the Cubs' first baseman had maintained a connection to the school community, and even donated $150,000 in November of 2017 to help the school purchase lights for their baseball field.
"I went to Stoneman Douglas, I grew up in Stoneman Douglas, I played on those fields, I went to those classes. I studied in those classrooms-the same school we saw on videos yesterday for all the wrong reasons," said Rizzo, fighting back tears as he continued his statement. "We see these on TV too often, I feel like it's all the time it is. There is a cycle to it - we get horrified that this violence is inflicted in our kids. We get angry that they're nothing we can do and nothing's done about it and then we ultimately get immune and move onto something else.
"But then it happens in our own town, in your own school, or the movie theatre, or a nightclub, or a church, and we realize it can happen to us, in our safe and tight-knit community in Parkland."