Brandon Auerbach didn’t want to leave his room.
The emotional wounds were still too fresh.
Barely a day had passed since he and hundreds of his fellow classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High were in fear for their lives as gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students and faculty killing 17 people during the worst mass shooting at a school in the state’s history.
But for Douglas’ senior second baseman, seeing his teammates back on the baseball field was much-needed therapy.
“It was really tough,” said Auerbach, whose voice still cracks when he talks about what happened. “I just wanted to sit in my room and cry. But it’s good to see people you love and just try to get a little bit of ‘back to normal.’”
Auerbach and the rest of the Douglas baseball team got together for the first time that Thursday night, just 24 hours after the shooting.
They didn’t take any swings or throw any baseballs.
There would be plenty of time for that later.
This was about trying to heal.
“We needed to cry, hug, talk and just love,” Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald said. “Let’s get it out and just talk to each other. For our guys, baseball is something they love. What greater opportunity to have than to come out here and do something you love and take your mind off this horrific event. Even if it’s for two or three hours, it gives these kids peace of mind. That’s more than they’ve probably had at any time in the last six days.”
Douglas High remains closed, with its faculty set to meet at the school Friday to try and resume classes next week.
In the meantime, the start of Douglas’ baseball season has also been put on pause.
The Eagles, winners of state and national titles in 2016, were originally set to play their first game on Tuesday at Flanagan. But the school’s administration felt it appropriate to wait until all the victims of the tragedy had been laid to rest.
Douglas was able to return to practice in recent days thanks to nearby North Broward Prep School in Coconut Creek offering them their facilities until Douglas reopened.
“It’s definitely been helping to get out here the last few days and be around people you call your brothers every day, especially knowing they are all safe,” Auerbach said. “It’s been a stress reliever to be out here. We’re all dedicating this season to those that couldn’t be here.”
None of Douglas’ baseball players was harmed by Cruz, who was booked into Broward County Main Jail last Thursday morning on charges of 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Douglas assistant coach Rich Hofman, who has won more state championships (10) than any coach in South Florida history, and coached legends like Alex Rodriguez, was on his way to Douglas just before the shooting began. He said he was delayed about 10 minutes in arriving to the school while running an errand or else he may have been caught on-campus during the lockdown.
“I had a couple of young men die in accidents when I coached at Westminster Christian so when something like that occurs it’s always a difficult time for a team,” said Hofman, who is in his fourth season at Douglas. “These kids will be impacted with this forever. When you get up in the morning, there are no guarantees. You have to make the most out of every moment.”
Fitz-Gerald initially feared for his son, Hunter, a talented corner infielder on the team, who was in class when the shooting occurred. But Hunter wasn’t in the same building.
Fitz-Gerald said his youngest son, Devin, who is in sixth grade, wasn’t at the school, but was one of many children in the community that knew Feis well.
“Feis would take him to his middle school sometimes,” Fitz-Gerald said. “He’s having a tough time. Both [Feis and Hixon] were great character people. They’d look after the kids and really do anything for them. They’re definitely going to be missed.”
Fitz-Gerald said he and some players were planning to attend the memorial services held this week for students as well as those coaches who gave their lives to protect students, such as athletic director Chris Hixon, assistant football coach Aaron Feis and cross-country coach Scott Beigel.
As Douglas continued to train for the upcoming season, in which they enter ranked No. 22 nationally by Baseball America, they wrote phrases such as “DouglasStrong,” “17 Strong” or the date “2/14/2018” to remember and honor the victims of the tragedy.
They also plan to wear patches on their uniforms all season.
Such tributes have come pouring in from all over the country over the past week.
Moments of silence have been held at numerous events nationwide, and flags have been lowered to half-mast throughout South Florida. Numerous schools throughout South Florida have taken to social media to show their support as well.
To honor the victims of last week’s school shooting, Major League Baseball teams intend to wear Douglas caps on Friday for the start of spring training games in Florida and Arizona.
The Marlins on Friday also intend to wear special shirts and caps during batting practice containing the inscription #17douglasstrong.
Marlins first baseman Justin Bour also said he planned to visit the Douglas baseball team at one of its practices.
“We’re not going to let this tragedy define us,” Fitz-Gerald said. “As a team and as a school, we’re going to come out of this stronger than ever.”
March 26-30: Spring break tournaments; April 23-26: GMAC baseball; April 30-May 4: Districts; May 8: Regional quarterfinals (9A-5A); May 9: Regional semifinals (4A-1A); May 15: Regional semifinals (9A-5A); regional finals (4A-1A); May 22: Regional finals (9A-5A); May 23-26 and May 30-June 2: State final four at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.
2017 STATE CHAMPIONS
9A: Orlando Timber Creek; 8A: Tallahassee Lincoln; 7A: Nease; 6A: Archbishop McCarthy; 5A: Jacksonville Bolles; 4A: Clearwater Calvary Christian; 3A: Fort Myers Canterbury; 2A: Lake Worth Trinity Christian; 1A: Trenton.
TOP 10 TEAMS IN SOUTH FLORIDA
1. American Hertage; 2. Calvary Christian; 3. Monsignor Pace; 4. Douglas; 5. North Broward Prep; 6. Columbus; 7. Doral; 8. Nova; 9. St. Thomas Aquinas; 10. Palmetto; Others: Pompano Beach, Gulliver, Westminster Christian, Florida Christian.
TOP RETURNING MIAMI-DADE PLAYERS
P: Yordany Carmona, Monsignor Pace, Jr.; Kevin Maura, Gulliver, Sr.; Chris Mederos, Columbus, Sr.; Victor Mederos, Monsignor Pace, So.; Jorge Perez, Doral, Sr. Danny San Pedro, Columbus, Jr.; Victor Valderrama, Palmetto, Sr.; 1B: Enrique Aparicio, South Miami, Sr.; E.J. Doskow, Columbus, Sr.; Bruno Ghisellini, Westminster Christian, Sr.; Kenny Gonzalez, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; Kenny Mederos, Monsignor Pace, So.; 2B: Michael Marin, Doral, Sr.; Michael Montes, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; Darian Munoz, Florida Christian, Sr.; Erick Orbeta, Southwest, Sr.; Austin Pollak, Miami Country Day, Sr.; SS: Lucas Costello, Gulliver, So.; Ariel Garcia, Columbus, Fr.; Yohandy Morales, Braddock, So.; Robert Sotolongo, Florida Christian, Jr.; Alex Ulloa, Columbus, Fr.; Anthony Vilar, Westminster Christian, Sr.; 3B: Yency Delgado, Doral, Sr.; INF: Jon Barditch, Belen Jesuit, Sr.; Sammy Infante, Monsignor Pace, So.; Luis Tuero, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; C: Adrian Del Castillo, Gulliver, Sr.; Gabriel Garcia, Palmetto, Sr.; Romeo Sanabria, Killian, So.; Humberto Torres, Belen, Sr.; OF: Kevin Cardentey, South Dade, Sr.; Brian Garcia, Coral Gables, Sr.; Mike Mas, Columbus, Sr.; Lewis Menendez, Mater Academy, Sr.; Bran Socorro, Coral Park, Sr.; UT: Jamar Fairweather, Westminster Christian, So.
TOP RETURNING BROWARD PLAYERS
P: Connor Brian, Douglas, Sr.; Ryan Cabarcas, American Heritage, Jr.; Chase Costello, Pompano Beach, Sr.; Danny Garcia, West Broward, Sr.; Trevor Kniskern, Pompano Beach, Sr.; Bailey Mantilla, American Heritage, Sr.; Trace Moore, Nova, Sr.; Andrew Painer, Calvary Christian, Fr.; Matt Russo, Coral Glades, Sr.; Christian Scott, Calvary Christian, Sr.; Juan Teixiera, Somerset, Sr.; Kyle Yeoward, Douglas, Jr.; 1B: Marcus Franco, Chaminade-Madonna, Fr.; 2B: Cory Acton, American Heritage, Sr.; Brandon Auerbach, Douglas, Sr.; Ty Crittenberger, Cardinal Gibbons, Sr.; Xavier Edwards, North Broward Prep, Sr.; SS: Raynel Delgado, Calvary Christian, Sr.; Christian Sosa, Westminster Academy, Sr.; Matt Patella, Nova, Sr.; Jon Rodriguez, Douglas, Sr.; 3B: Triston Casas, American Heritage, Sr.; Jordan Campbell, Nova, Jr.; Zack Goberville, North Broward Prep, Sr.; Roberto Pena, Calvary Christian, Sr.; Ben Rushing, Cypress Bay, Sr.; C: Max Baldaccini, Somerset, Jr.; Julio Cortez, American Heritage, Sr.; Caleb Roberts, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; Nick Vera, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; OF: Jared Campbell, Nova, Jr.; Tyler Knierim, Calvary Christian, Jr.; Leon Paulino, Chaminade-Madonna, Jr.; Chris Ruckdeschel, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; Mike Schuler, Pompano Beach, Sr.; Rick Shimko, Douglas, Sr.; Mykanthony Valdez, Calvary Christian, Jr.
TEAM OUTLOOKS - MIAMI-DADE
COLUMBUS (Coach Joe Weber, 24th year, 548-113). Last year: 25-3 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: RHP Danny San Pedro, Sr.; RHP Chris Mederos, Sr.; 1B E.J. Doskow, Sr.; 2B Matt Alfonso, Sr.; RHP Anthony Arguelles, Sr.; OF Mike Mas, Sr.
PALMETTO (Coach Danny Smith, 8th year at PAL, 25th overall). Last year: 22-7 (State semifinalist). Top players: INF-P Victor Valderrama, Sr.; C Gabriel Garcia, Sr.; INF Alex Castaneda, Sr.; INF Dixon Aburto, Sr.; INF Brandon Abreu, Sr.; P Ryan MacInnes, Sr.
CORAL GABLES (Coach Ernie Padron, 1st year at CG, 28th overall, 505-185). Last year: 13-14 (Regional finalist). Top players: OF Brian Garcia, Sr.; 1B-LHP Juan Osorio, Sr.; C Gerardo Rodriguez, Jr.; INF Nico Montes, Sr.; INF Brian Vargas, Sr.; INF-RHP Luis Espinal, So.; OF-RHP Ernest Denis, Jr.
SOUTHWEST (Coach Mandy Pelaez, 2nd year at SW, 23rd overall). Last year: 12-11. Top players: 2B Erick Orbeta, Sr.; C Jorge Tejeda, Sr.; SS Danny Cruz, Sr.; P Mario Garcia, Jr.; P Michael Padron, Jr.; 3B Eddie Sierra, So.
BRADDOCK (Coach Wesley Morejon, 1st year at BR, 4th overall, 32-31). Last year: 14-11 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: 3B Hianny Olivares, Jr.; SS Yohandy Morales, So.; 2B Yandy Morales, Sr.; RHP Alejandro Perez, Sr.; LHP-OF-1B Maikol Leon, Sr.; RHP Gabriel Core, Sr.
CORAL PARK (Coach Juan "Butch" Carnicero, 5th year at CP, 15th overall, 60-45). Last year: 20-8 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: OF Jordan Rollins, Jr.; INF Zachary Nieto, Jr.; OF Bran Socorro, Sr.; OF-P William Silva, Jr.; P Orestes Garcia, Sr.
KILLIAN (Coach Hernan Adames, 1st year at KIL). Last year: 17-7-1. Top players: C-1B Romeo Sanabria, So.; RHP Isaias Hernandez, Jr.; 3B-RHP Adrian Parra, Sr.; C-1B Jorge Corona, Jr.; LF Jose Navarrette, Jr.; C-1B Kevin Acosta, Sr.
HIALEAH GARDENS (Coach Carlos Garcia, 2nd year, 15-10). Last year: 15-10 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: C Levis Aguila, Sr.; RHP Marcos Ruiz, Sr.; 1B Manny Iglesias, So.; OF Lenlli Omar Eusebio, Sr.; RHP Harold Aguilera, Sr.; RHP Richard Betancourt, Sr.; RHP Nick Pazos, Jr.; OF-LHP Javier Manganelly, Jr.
SOUTH MIAMI (Coach Howard Cuervo, 3rd year, 15-28-1). Last year: 9-12-1. Top players: P-1B Enrique Aparicio, Sr.; SS-2B Kenneth Diaz, Sr.; OF Aaron Cox, Sr.; OF-1B Andre Mourelle, Sr.; 3B-1B Yassel Pino, Jr.; C-1B Sean Tejeda, Sr.
MIAMI HIGH (Coach Ed Bonilla, 1st year at MHS, 64-84 overall). Last year: 3-19. Top players: RHP Micahel Gayo, So.; OF Kendry Noriega, So.; INF Alejandro De Arazoza, Sr.; RHP Johnny Sosa, Sr.
VARELA (Coach Carlos Yedo, 1st year). Last year: 5-17. Top players: SS George Gallardo, Sr.; OF-P Christhian Medina, Jr.; P Brandon Diaz, So.; OF-2B Elijah Colon, Sr.; C Miguel Ruiz, Jr.; 1B Juan Reina, Sr.
MATER ACADEMY (Coach Michael DiRosa, 5th year, 61-44). Last year: 11-13 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: CF Lewis Menendez, Sr.; 1B-LHP Chris Lopez, Sr.; RHP Darwin Rodas, Sr.; INF Franki Febles, Jr.; INF Alex Aguila, Jr.
DORAL (Coach Ralph Suarez, 4th year at DA, 20th overall, 468-142-11). Last year: 19-82 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: SS-3B Yency Delgado, Sr.; 2B Michael Marin, Sr.; 1B Robert Leiva, Sr.; P Jorge Perez, Sr.; 1B-P-OF Adrian Figueroa, So.; C Nicolas Pitelli, Jr.
BELEN JESUIT (Coach Jerry Albert, 7th year at Bel, 19th overall, 291-189). Last year: 22-6-1 (Regional finalist). Top players: C Humberto Torres, Sr.; C Andrew Hernandez, Sr.; INF Jon Barditch, Sr.; P Alejandro Torres, Jr.; P Alec Arrizurrieta, Sr.; INF Armando Albert, Sr.
MONSIGNOR PACE (Coach Tom Duffin, 24th year, 380-141). Last year: 24-6 (Regional finalist). Top players: INF Michael Montes, Sr.; LHP-1B Yordani Carmona, Jr.; RHP-1B Victor Mederos, So.; OF-1B Kenny Mederos, So.; OF-1B Kenny Gonzalez, Sr.; INF Luis Tuero, Sr.; INF-OF Sammy Infante, So.; RHP-OF Nick Regalado, So.; RHP-OF Albert Hernandez, So.
GULLIVER (Coach Manny Crespo, 3rd year, 35-16). Last year: Regional quarterfinalist. Top players: C Adrian Del Castillo, Sr.; P Kevin Maura, Sr.; SS Lucas Costello, So.; CF Jacob Marcos, Sr.; 2B-OF Lucas Nido, So.; P Julian Erro, Jr.
LA SALLE (Coach Nathan Gomez, 2nd year, 8-13). Last year: 8-13. Top players: CF Yiovanni Matias, P Raul Mollera, Sr.; RF Angel Marcano, Sr.; 2B Addiel Quintana, Jr.; C Roy Waterman, So.; P Harley Lahuis, Sr.
RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Kenny Perez, 4th year, 26-30). Last year: 6-13. Top players: C Matthew Jackson, Sr.; CF-P Michael Hannan, Jr.; SS-P Michael McBrayer, Jr.; 1B Jake Weintraub, Sr.; 2B Alex Boehm, Jr.; OF-P Michael Segel, Jr.
FLORIDA CHRISTIAN (Coach Chris Brigman, 6th year, 87-48). Last year: 14-10. Top players: SS Robert Sotolongo, Jr.; P Matthew Fernandez, So.; P Orlando Hernandez, So.; C Carlos Perez, So.; 2B Darian Munoz, Sr.; OF Sebastian Lopez, Sr.
MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Chuck Sennett, 14th year, 122-173). Last year: 10-15. Top players: 1B Kian Andersen, Sr.; SS-2B Austin Pollak, Sr.; 3B-SS Connor Goodman, Jr.; P-OF Jorden Gross, Sr.; OF-P Kenny Byers, Sr.
MIAMI CHRISTIAN (Coach Chris Cuadra, 6th year, 61-61). Last year: 20-8 (Regional finalist). Top players: P Jason Marono, Jr.; P Mario Fernandez, Sr.; P Alejandro Rosario, Fr.; SS Jose Izzara, So.; C Eduardo Castillo, Sr.; 1B Diego Fernandez, Sr.
TEAM-BY-TEAM OUTLOOKS - BROWARD
DOUGLAS (Coach Todd Fitz-Gerald, 8th year at MSD, 18th overall, 373-103). Last year: 22-5 (Regional finalist). Top players: INF-2B Brandon Auerbach, Sr.; SS Jon Rodriguez, Sr.; CF-LHP Rick Shimko, Sr.; RHP Kyle Yeoward, Jr.; RHP Connor Brian, Sr.
WEST BROWARD (Coach Howard Stein, 1st year). Last year: 15-7 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: P-1B Danny Garcia, Sr.; 3B Corey Clement, Sr.; OF Roberto Lopez, So.; C-P Nick Hardy, Jr.; SS Tyler Zayas, Sr.; 2B-P Juhlien Gonzalez, Fr.
CORAL GLADES (Coach Joe Franco, 3rd year at CG, 13th overall, 154-111-1). Last year: 15-7 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: OF-P Gustavo Lino, Sr.; INF-P Kyle Durham, Sr.; P Matt Russo, Sr.; C Joey Muscat, Jr.; SS Nick Paschal, Sr.; OF-P Oscar Contreras, Jr.
NOVA (Coach Pat McQuaid, 45th year, 890-312). Last year: 25-4 (State semifinalist). Top players: 1B-LHP Trace Moore, Sr.; SS Matt Patella, Sr.; CF Jared Campbell, Jr.; 3B Jordan Campbell, Jr.; 1B-RHP Dylan Kahn, Sr.; 2B Andre Martinez, Sr.; 1B-RHP Astin Santiago, So.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Coach Troy Cameron, 6th year, 100-30). Last year: 22-6 (Regional finalist). Top players: RF Chris Ruckdeschel, Sr.; C-3B Caleb Roberts, Sr.; C-3B Nick Vera, Sr.; RHP Blake Hely, Sr.; CF Cade Fergus, Sr.; SS Andres Antonini, Sr.; 2B Matt Archer, Jr.
COOPER CITY (Coach Brian Clark, 3rd year at CC, 6th overall). Last year: 13-14 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: P Doug Weimann, Sr.; P-3B Andres Dilone, Jr.; C-1B-P Jordan Schulman, Jr.
AMERICAN HERITAGE (Coach Bruce Aven, 7th year, 124-36). Last year: 20-7 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: 3B-1B Triston Casas, Sr.; 2B-3B Cory Acton, Sr.; LHP Bailley Mantilla, Sr.; LHP Ryan Cabarcas, Jr.; C Julio Cortez, Sr.; CF Enrique Bradfield, So.
NORTH BROWARD PREP (Coach Brian Campbell, 11th year). Last year: 13-14. Top players: SS Xavier Edwards, Sr.; 3B Zach Goberville, Sr.; C-1B Dylan Goldstein, Jr.; INF Matthew Corlew, Jr.; INF Chase McBean, Jr.; OF-P Liam Cogswell, Jr.
SOMERSET (Coach Onel Garcia, 9th year, 120-95). Last year: 19-7. Top players: P Juan Teixiera, Sr.; OF-P Xavier Moronta, Jr.; C Max Baldaccini, Jr.; SS Joel Perez, So.; 1B-3B Brian Loriga, Fr.; 3B-P Knicko Billings, Jr.
CHAMINADE-MADONNA (Coach Jorge Miranda, 2nd year at C-M, 16th overall, 158-157). Last year: 13-13. Top players: OF Leon Paulino, Jr.; INF Chris Schoeller, Sr.; OF Eric Bonkowski, Sr.; OF Gianni Tusa, Jr.; C Noah Izquierdo, Jr.; 1B Marcus Franco, Fr.
NSU UNIVERSITY SCHOOL (Coach Josh Snyder, 2nd year). Last year: 25-4 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: SS-P Alex Wertman, Jr.; OF-P Armani Davis, Jr.; P Drew Snow, Sr.; 1B-3B Lonel Delgado, Jr.
SAGEMONT (Coach Armando Sierra, 1st year). Last year: 10-12 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: SS Daniel Moreno, Jr.; 1B Eric Verdera, Sr.; CF Jonathon Vega, So.; OF Kashav Babu, Jr.; C Alex Gonzalez, Sr.
POSNACK (Coach Jamaine Cotton, 1st year). Last year: 5-5. Top players: C-RHP Ethan Firestein, 8th; C-INF Michael Kleiman, Fr.; OF-C Alec Feldman, Jr.; RHP David Rhein, Sr.