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Christopher Lane: A journey cut short

Why does a guy simply out jogging get gunned down? How is it that a baseball player from Australia dies on a quiet road near the outskirts of a small town in Oklahoma? How did he go from Melbourne to El Reno to Ada to Duncan?
by Jenni Carlson Published: August 23, 2013
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Chris Lane hated running.

He even had a “Running Sucks” T-shirt.

A bunch of his baseball buddies were laughing about that the other night when they got together to reminisce about the guy they call Laney. The East Central University baseball player was killed last week when he was shot in the back while jogging.

“Of all the things for Laney to go out on,” his buddies mused. “He probably had his ‘Running Sucks' shirt on and everything.”

At a time when friends and strangers alike are struggling to find sense in a senseless slaying, the reality is harsh — none of this makes sense.

Why does a guy simply out jogging get gunned down? How is it that a baseball player from Australia dies on a quiet road near the outskirts of a small town in Oklahoma? How did he go from Melbourne to El Reno to Ada to Duncan?

It started with a chance meeting between the baseball coach who brought him to Oklahoma and a Canadian in Racine, Wis.

Chance meeting

In the summer of 2002, Matt Newgent had just taken a job as an assistant baseball coach at Olney Community College in Illinois, and he made a recruiting trip to Wisconsin. While watching some recruits play a game, Newgent randomly struck up a conversation with a stranger from Canada.

As they talked, the Canadian mentioned that he had a friend, Trevor Schumm, who was involved in the youth baseball scene in Australia. Schumm was running the baseball program at the Australian Capital Territory Institute of Sport.

Maybe he'd have some players who'd want to come to the States.

Contact info was exchanged, and not long after, Newgent got in touch with Schumm.

Sure enough, Schumm had a couple of kids who were interested in coming to America and playing college baseball. Newgent eventually signed two Aussies, but neither made it to Olney. They ended up signing professional contracts in Australia.

But both recommended a couple of other players.

Newgent could've thrown those names in the trash. After all, his initial efforts to bring Australian players to America had failed.

But there was something about the Aussie players. They were friendly. They were outgoing. Newgent liked them.

He decided to try again to recruit Aussies.

Sight unseen in the summer of 2003, he recruited and signed four Australians to come play for him at Redlands Community College. He'd just taken the head coaching job at the El Reno college, and over the next couple of seasons, some of those Aussies became his best players and sold Newgent on recruiting in Australia.

Newgent decided to travel to Australia in 2006 to cement connections that he'd previously built only with phone calls and emails. One of his meetings was with Lee McIntyre, who is widely known as a leader in Australia's tight-knit baseball circles.

Soon after, Lee told Newgent about a kid named Chris Lane. Catcher. Good player. Great leader. Phenomenal young man who had an infectious smile.

When Newgent returned to Australia in 2008, he met Lane and worked him out.

“Chris was everything that Lee said he would be,” Newgent said.

The coach offered a scholarship.

Chris accepted.

Journey begins

A year later, he boarded a plane for the 9,081-mile journey from Melbourne to El Reno. He left a cosmopolitan, bayside metropolis of more than 4 million for a central Oklahoma town of 16,729.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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