TUCSON, Ariz. – As much as John Green didn’t want to politicize this event, it became impossible to listen to his measured words and not think about Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., or that Aurora, Colo., movie theater or the violence on the streets of Chicago.
Green thinks of his daughter when he’s traveling “the lonely back roads” as a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It can be a brutal lifestyle, with too many nights spent in hotels across the country, sometimes watching two or three games a day. But hearing the national anthem each time brings him back, because they used to sing that together.
“That’s my little time I spend with her,” Green said.
Standing in a quiet corner of the press box at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium on Thursday in Tucson, Green didn’t want to use this as a platform or get into a gun-control debate. He wanted the focus to be on the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation, which has raised some $500,000 and drew 11,118 fans to watch the Dodgers beat the Cubs 5-4 in a charity game.
More than two years ago, Christina-Taylor’s interest in politics drove her to meet then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords outside a Safeway grocery store here. The Democrat from Arizona survived the shooting spree that left six dead, including the nine-year-old girl just elected to her elementary school council.
Green – whose famous father Dallas pushed to get lights into Wrigley Field and built the team that almost went to the 1984 World Series – said “the Cubs have a special place in our heart.”
Your head thought about the more than 500 homicides reported in Chicago last year, and Hadiya Pendleton gunned down on the South Side days after singing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“All around the country, it gives you pause,” Green said. “I don’t think we have all the answers to figuring out the gun-control issue. But it’s definitely a problem our country has to solve. I don’t know if we can ever solve it 100 percent, but we got to try. We got to make an effort. I know there’s people out there that want to make an effort.
“If there’s an impetus to make an effort, at least we can live with ourselves. We can look ourselves in the mirror and say: You know what, there’s flaws in our politicians. There’s flaws in our policies and things like that, but we know we’re trying to do our best. We just can’t sit back and not try to do better.”
Jared Lee Loughner is serving life in prison without parole after opening fire on Jan. 18, 2011 with a semiautomatic handgun with an extended ammunition clip, killing six people and wounding 13.
Christina-Taylor was a baby born out of national tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001, which spurred her interest in politics and world affairs and led her to that crime scene.
If Green’s son, Dallas, hadn’t had a karate class that morning in Tucson, it could have been even more devastating.
“He would have been there,” Green said. “If he didn’t have karate, my wife (Roxanna) would have been there, (too), because she would have taken him. He had, I think, a 10:30 karate class or something like that over at the YMCA.
“The girls – our neighbor and Christina – decided to make it a girl outing, anyway. … It is unbelievable. I don’t know where I’d be today if that happened.”
The Green family, which has so many connections throughout the game, has been touched by the response throughout Major League Baseball. Green had worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates when future Cubs manager Dale Sveum was just beginning his coaching career in their minor-league system.
“It’s a nice way to show the appreciation,” Sveum said. “We can come down and throw a baseball game to raise money for the families and the foundation. … We’re doing it for a really good cause – and the city of Tucson for what they went through a few years ago – and obviously the family. It’s a nice event to be a part of.”
Christina’s grandfather – Dallas – managed the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series title in 1980 before becoming the Cubs general manager, another culture change that lasted from October 1981 to October 1987.
“Dad was a pretty opinionated figure,” Green said. “He was kind of a lightning rod at that time. He changed the whole organization in a couple years – for the better or for the worse – but I think something had to change. He went for the 100 percent change.”
On this day, Green wanted to keep most of his thoughts on gun control to himself, and not have those opinions make headlines. He wanted to talk about his beloved daughter, their memories together and the future of a foundation he believes will make a difference.
“That’s all you can do,” Green said. “When the worst thing in the world ever happens to you, you either give up and go home or you keep yourself busy and try to direct something positive out of it.”