GLENDALE, Ariz. — Mikey Duarte arrived at the White Sox’ minor-league camp Monday with a very heavy heart.
It’s going to stay that way for a long, long time.
Duarte’s sister, Christiana, was shot and killed when a heavily armed gunman opened fire on a crowd attending a concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. She was, at 22, 16 months younger than Duarte. They were siblings and “best friends,” Duarte said.
The massacre, which left 58 dead and 851 injured, occurred four months after the Sox selected Duarte, a shortstop from Torrance, California, and California-Irvine, in the 23rd round of the draft. He wiped away tears while talking to reporters near the minor-league hitting cages, a stream of emotions still running high.
“Coming back and playing baseball for the next seven months is going to mean more now than it probably has before,’’ Duarte, 23, said. “Because this is a game all of us love, including her. She was excited to finally come watch me in a professional game, in uniform. She was just really excited, my mom and dad, too. But we’re going to do it for her.’’
Duarte came to camp early to get interviews behind him, so he can focus on baseball March 6.
“I’ll never be close with anyone like her again,’’ Duarte said. “That’s how close we were. She’s my best friend forever. She’ll never leave me, she’ll never leave my thoughts and she’ll never leave who I am.”
Christiana, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona, worked for the Los Angeles Kings. Mikey’s girlfriend at the time, Ariel Romero, attended the concert with his sister and was shot in the face but survived.
Duarte was in Glendale for instructional-league activity when it happened. That night, “I got a phone call at, like, 9:30 p.m. from my mom saying, ‘Mikey, I can’t find ‘Cheekies’; there was a shooting at the concert.’ And I lost it,’’ Duarte said.
“I was like, ‘What?’ I ran out of my hotel room with my boxers on, no shoes, nothing, and . . . booked it to Vegas. Drove 110 mph and didn’t stop.’’
Michael and Barbara Duarte, Mikey’s parents, didn’t receive confirmation that their daughter was dead until the next day, after the family spent much of the day searching.
Duarte admits he initially turned to alcohol to numb the pain but has turned away from that now. His parents, as any parent might imagine, are “not good.”
It’s much too soon.
“Every day we wake up, it’s a living nightmare,’’ he said.
“Something definitely needs to happen to make concerts safer, to make schools safer, to make the United States safer,’’ Duarte said. “Democrats and Republicans, come together as one because we’re all the same color, the same . . . inside.
“There’s no reason a school should be shot up with 17 [people]dead. A church, 26 people dead. A concert in Las Vegas, 58 dead. It just keeps happening over and over again, and it’s not going to stop until our people high up do something about it. And there’s no reason to have a semi-automatic weapon. There’s no reason to have an AR-15. If you need to protect your home, you should be able to have a pistol at your house to protect someone if they break into your house.
“So, yeah, I think something needs to be done to help your kids and my kids one day live in a safer environment.”
Duarte posted this on Twitter Sunday:
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