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Newtown Visit Affects Claremont Youth Baseball 

Claremont — Chris Stanhope knew he had to do something.

The shock and horror of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., had crept its way up into the Upper Valley. All day Friday the horrible news filled the airwaves, disjointed at first, but soon it all came together — 20 schoolchildren and another six teachers and staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The same town where Stanhope’s Claremont Cal Ripken baseball team played last spring.

“As soon as I heard, it registered immediately,” said Stanhope, the team’s organizer. “At that point there were only a few details, but I kept listening to find out just what had happened.”

So was team coach Bob Bean. “I was shocked, just like everybody else,” said Bean after he heard the news. “What a tragedy. And then I realized, ‘Holy cow, we played down there.’ ”

Last May, Claremont’s Granite State Storm team, made up of a dozen 11- and 12-year-olds, was headed to play in Cooperstown, N.Y., and was looking for some practice games before they got there. They came upon a Memorial Day weekend tournament down in Newtown. The Claremont team stayed over two nights and played three games down in Connecticut, although they never played against the home team.

“The people were real nice to us ... just normal, run-of-the-mill people,” said Stanhope. “It was a little New England town, nice atmosphere. And their fields were beautiful.”

When the tournament ended, the Claremont team was off for Cooperstown. They ran into Newtown once more last summer when both teams reached the New England Cal Ripken regionals — Newtown representing Connecticut and Claremont representing New Hampshire.

But that was the last time anyone involved with the Claremont baseball group thought about Newtown. Until Friday.

“There are no words,” said Stanhope, who initially heard the news while at work in the NAPA Auto Parts store in Claremont. “You never understand why. ... It’s just such a loss. Those 6- and 7-year-old kids who will never fulfill any of their future dreams.”

Watching the gut-wrenching news reports, Stanhope decided he wanted to do something, anything that might help the people down in Newtown.

“I was in the store Saturday morning picking up some things for my son’s eighth-grade fundraiser, when I walked down the card aisle,” said Stanhope. “I knew what I wanted to do. We were going to send a card of condolences down to the people running Newtown baseball.”

So all weekend, Stanhope has been rallying players, coaches and parents to come sign his card that he hopes to mail out on Wednesday.

“What can you do?” asked Stanhope. “We just want those people down there to know we are thinking of them.”

Bean, who had been coaching that group of Claremont kids for the past four years, was also struck by the helplessness of the tragedy. “You know, I was thinking there were probably kids on that Newtown team with siblings at that school,” he said. “My heart goes out to the families.”

Bean’s 12-year-old son, Brendan, had looked up Newtown on Google maps and found that the field his team had played on back in May was just two miles from Sandy Hook Elementary.

“It’s just such a shock,” said Bean. “(Newtown) was like up here; a normal, small New England town,” he said, and then paused.

“But not any more.”

Don Mahler can be reached at dmahler@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.