Santa Fe shooting left mark on baseball program

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Contributed by Clay Sowell

Sign made by Kingwood Park High School in support of Santa Fe during the baseball game

By Taylor Rankin, Kingwood Park High School

In 2018 there was a record number of 24 school shootings across America in which students were killed or injured. Ten of those students were at Santa Fe High School – just 61 miles from Kingwood Park High School. 

I only cared about ‘Are those kids OK?’ and ‘Are those coaches and teachers OK?’”

— Baseball coach, Bruce Cox

The shooting hit especially close to home because of the baseball playoffs. Kingwood Park and Santa Fe had played the day before. They were also scheduled to play May 18, the day the shooting occurred.

Baseball coach Bruce Cox was shocked when another coach called to tell him about what happened.

“My initial thought wasn’t about the game or the series,” Cox said. “I only cared about ‘Are those kids OK?’ and ‘Are those coaches and teachers OK?’ – not just the baseball kids, but just the whole school.”

Not knowing when they would next play, Cox scheduled a meeting with the players letting them know about what was going on. That night the coach from Santa Fe called saying that they would play the next day. 

“We had a lot of our players in the room that were hurt, confused and at that point it was just us trying to make sure everyone understood that we were going to honor their wishes and they wanted to play so we were going to play,” Cox said.

Senior Jackson Rodriguez was a sophomore at the time. He pitched against Santa Fe in the first game of the series. Finding out this news was a shock to him.

“Thursday night we played them at Deer Park High School,” Rodriguez said. “I pitched for us and Rome Shubert pitched for Santa Fe,” Rodriguez said. “Then I found out Rome was one of the guys shot and still survived.”

Honoring the school was one of the top priorities. The Kingwood Park baseball team made Santa Fe shirts and also put yellow ‘SF’ stickers on the back of every helmet to support Santa Fe in each game they played.

“We had a dad that donated the shirts and made them,” Cox said. “They said ‘Santa Fe Stong,’ and we warmed up in them and gave those shirts to the kids in the handshake line at the end.”

When the Kingwood Park baseball team pulled up to Deer Park High School for the second game, there were TV stations and newspaper companies from ESPN to T elemundo in attendance to cover the event. Both Santa Fe and Kingwood Park made signs in support of Santa Fe community and student body.

“We talked to our guys about not talking to the media unless I was there,” Cox said. “It was a very delicate situation and I don’t think our guys could have handled it any better. Santa Fe fans had huge signs in support of the community, there was so many Santa Fe fans that they started to have some on our side too.”

It was just one big Santa Fe family, and for seven innings they let us into that family and be apart of the healing process.”

— Baseball coach, Bruce Cox

Through everything going on, Santa Fe leaned on each other: the coaches, players and community. Breaking the division between the two teams, Cox went over to Santa Fe players to offer encouragement.

“It was just one big Santa Fe family, and for seven innings they let us into that family and be apart of the healing process,” Cox said. “I got out of our dugout and went over to their side and started giving their team fist pumps. When our team realized what I was doing, they all followed to give them fist pumps.”

Before the game, everyone from both teams went to the field as the Santa Fe coach prayed over everyone affected by the tragedy and the community. Kingwood Park eventually won the game

“I will remember that for a very long time,” Rodriguez said. “I remember how appreciative they were for us playing the way that we did and not making it easy.”

Through the tragedy, the simple t-shirts made by Kingwood Park baseball team, made an impact. 2018 our baseball team made it to the Dell Diamond, and Santa Fe baseball coach showed up wearing the shirt that was made to support our school through the big game.

“The coolest part was when we went to the state tournament that year at the dell diamond,” Cox said. “The Santa Fe coach was there wearing the shirt that we gave them and we really wanted to win that not just for our team but Santa Fe too.”

There were many life lessons learned in 2018, with Harvey and Santa Fe. The one that hit home for Kingwood Park baseball team was realizing what mattered most in life.

“Our kids understanding that there’s more to life than baseball helped us get through rounds four and five,” Cox said. “When we lost the series our kids said ‘it isn’t even that bad.”

Assistant Principal, Gary Brain, among much of Kingwood, was amazed by how Kingwood Park did what we did to help take care of Santa Fe High School.

“Seeing that and how it all played out was just amazing,” Brain said. “I think that’s a testament to the school because of the character you guys have as a student on our campus, which is a testament to you guys and your families.”

Today Shubert is still playing for the Santa Fe baseball team. On May 18, 2018 Shubert sent out a tweet thanking God for sparing his life

“I am so grateful and blessed that God spared my life today. Today I was shot in the back of the head, but I am completely stable,” Shubert tweeted.

In November 2019, Shubert has reached a successful milestone, signing to University of Houston where he will continue playing baseball. 

“Blessed to be signed to the University of Houston. Can’t wait to continue to play baseball at the next level. Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way. Go Coogs!” Shubert tweeted.

With time Santa Fe has made many improvements to the school and as a student body. Metal detectors were added along with alarms on all the doors, Academic standings have improved as well.

“We had more playoff runs, and received more awards for our fine arts than in any years preceding.  I attribute that to students and staff. They did not want to be defined by this tragedy and wanted to have a positive school year,” said Santa Fe Principal, Mrs. Blundel.

This story was originally published on Park Times on February 11, 2020.