Past and present Sarasota high school baseball players raised money for Kevin Gallardo.
It was an overcast and chilly morning at Twin Lakes Park on Dec. 20, but that didn’t stop Sarasota High School baseball players from coming out to play.
It's normally a relaxing Sunday tradition, focusing on fun and camaraderie instead of uniforms and lineup cards, but this gathering offered a different purpose. Teammates were there to pay tribute to Sarasota High School student Kevin Gallardo, a friend and teammate who died in a traffic crash in Lakewood Ranch on Dec. 4.
Gallardo, 16, was a pitcher for the Sarasota Sailors baseball team and had a reputation for making teammates laugh. Teammate Justin Higgins said Gallardo had an infectiously upbeat energy.
“He was an outgoing kid,” Higgins said. “He didn’t have to do anything to make you smile, you’d see him and smile … it’s hard to process because the nicest kids are the ones that stuff like this happens to.”
Dozens of players came out to play in the Sunday tournament, each paying $10 with the total donated to Gallardo’s family.
Austin Brinling, a former student at Out-Of-Door Academy who now plays at Daytona State College, has helped organize the informal pickup games since the start. Teams of five played three-inning games in a double-elimination format. Staff at Twin Lakes Park’s concession stand gave out free food to people who participated in the tournament.
He felt hosting a tournament in Gallardo’s honor would be a fitting way to support his family. Sarasota’s baseball scene is tight-knit, with many players growing up and playing together since they were in grade school. Brinling, 19, said it wasn't hard bringing players together in support of Gallardo's family.
“We thought seeing the tragedy with (Kevin), being able to get people together and help them donate to his family that this would be the easiest way to do it,” Brinling said. “... A lot of people I know were upset and affected by this. It’s a way to have fun but to help people out.”
Tanner Crump, one of Gallardo’s best friends, was woken up by his dad to learn his friend had died.
The two met at a football game Crump’s first year and Gallardo’s second year and became inseparable. The two were both pitchers for the Sailors, and threw the ball back and forth almost every day. Crump said Gallardo had a natural ability to make him laugh.
But Sunday morning he watched his teammates and friends play while he sat on the sidelines — he decided it wouldn’t feel right to play without his best friend.
“He was a great person, he was so competitive,” Crump said. “(The fundraiser) is going to help his family get through this.”
He says he’s been managing the past couple weeks trying to think of the good times with Gallardo. All the same, he felt good watching his teammates unite in honor of his best friend.
“I’m trying to think about the good memories and not grieve his death,” Crump said. “I want to learn from what he did and try to be the kind of friend he always was.”