A large crowd gathered Monday evening, lining the perimeter of a ball field – some wearing team jerseys, some holding candles and others bowing their head in silence.
The gathering at Lewis Park in Courtenay was a vigil for Chris Godfrey – a 32-year-old husband, father and slo-pitch player who was critically injured Saturday during an annual tournament organized by the Comox Valley Slo-Pitch League.
Scott Parsons, coach of the Ballbusters – the host team – explained a ball thrown from the infield to first base hit Godfrey in the back of the head.
Godfrey was rushed to St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox, and then airlifted to hospital in Victoria.
“(He is a) young guy just starting out in life; it’s a real tragic accident – it’s unbelievable. You never think something like that is going to happen when you come here to play the game we all love since we’re a child, right?” noted Parsons holding back tears.
“It’s one in a billion thing. Nobody has ever seen anything like that happen before and for the rest of my life I’ll probably never see anything like that happen again. It’s tragic.”
Adrienne Elliott, president of the Comox Valley Slo-Pitch League noted as a result of the tragic event at the tournament the league is implementing mandatory helmets for all players as of Wednesday.
“ … If a helmet is going to save someone’s life or change the outcome of the tragedy this weekend, so be it. Then wear a helmet, have fun, because it was awfully devastating to people that were here this weekend that could have had a whole other outcome. It’s just doing what’s best for the members of the league.”
She said while many players are processing the incident, “we will continue on.
“We learn from lessons – just as we do in life – and it’s just hoping everything improves.”
Additionally, she noted as a result of their decision, the Campbell River Slo-Pitch League posted on social media that helmets will be mandatory for their players as of 2018.
“Port Alberni is talking about going to vote for this. People are talking and nobody ever wants this – you’re out here to have fun.”
Bre Morgan, a player for the Ballbusters and spokesperson at the vigil explained she believes the idea of mandatory helmets has hit close enough to home that the message has taken hold.
“Our executive has stepped up in a big way. Normally there’s ball going on in these diamonds on Monday evenings but tonight we stepped back and wielded to Chris. Starting Wednesday helmets are mandatory in our league and I hope that continues.”
She said both the show of support throughout the weekend in person, online and at the Monday vigil has “brought us together like nothing we’ve ever seen.
“I hope it shows just what an incredible group of people we really have here in the Comox Valley and what it means to be a part of something like this, and the people who’ve sat idly by and watched what we do and wonder what is the appeal, really understand that it’s just not a sport we play a couple of times a week, and sometimes on weekends. It means being a part of something bigger.”
A Go Fund Me page named Love & support for Chris & family has been created to assist the family.
More than $15,000 has been raised in two days.
“I don’t think we expected to see as much as we have already. It’s absolutely amazing how much the members of the league, the community, the business have pulled through,” said Elliott.
“(There’s) unbelievable love all the way around. It’s overwhelming the amount of love.”