DUNCAN — For the city of Duncan, Chris Lane's tragic death has been difficult to understand.
Lane, a baseball player at East Central University in Ada, was shot and killed in Duncan on Aug. 16 while jogging one week before beginning the first semester of his senior year.
The random act of violence has left the southern Oklahoma community, with a population of just over 23,000, in shock over the past two months.
“You don't ever expect it and it's very difficult to understand when something like that happens,” said Duncan mayor Gene Brown. “There's some lessons to be learned, but we've got to move forward as a community and make the best out of this.”
On Thursday night, Duncan received some help in the healing process. Redlands Community College (El Reno) and East Central, both schools where Lane played baseball, came together for “Chris Lane Night at the Ballpark.”
The fall scrimmage was held at Duncan High School, and while attendance was free, donations were accepted for the Chris Lane Memorial Scholarship Fund.
“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” Brown said. “Getting all three entities involved together like this adds so much to the healing process for Duncan and the universities he attended. We all understand the importance of coming together and working together through something like this. Everything I've heard about Chris has been positive and I think he'd be proud of what the schools are doing.”
The event was all about remembering Lane. Sarah Harper, Lane's girlfriend whom he was visiting at the time of his death, threw out the first pitch.
Players on both teams wore uniforms with Lane's name and number, No. 2 for Redlands and No. 7 for East Central.
“You don't think something like that is possible in a town like (Duncan),” said ECU catcher and Ada native Cale Russell. “Really I'm still in shock thinking about that. Being out here today is different, but I think it's a good experience for everyone involved.”
Despite dealing with grief and distractions, Russell says the East Central baseball team has remained focused on improving on the field, because Lane wouldn't have it any other way.
“We're still here to compete, and we're competing for Chris,” said Russell, who shared a position with Lane last season. “These two teams are showing how much we loved Chris by competing hard for nine hard innings because he would want us to do that.”
East Central infielder Levi Keeton remembers thinking it was a joke when he heard the news of Lane's death.
“Being out here today helps for all of us,” said Keeton, who attended Strother High School. “Especially for Duncan. It's important to sort of help this town get rid of a black eye that it doesn't necessarily deserve. I think Chris would be happy to know were out here doing this.”
Keeton and Lane spent some tough times together while both were rehabbing injuries as freshmen at Redlands. But Keeton says Lane, an Australian native, always had a way of making any situation seem positive.
“If I was feeling bad one day he would come up with a funny or clever Australian saying to put a grin on your face,” Keeton said. “When you're hurt you can get kind of bummed out because you're not able to play, so having someone pick you up is great. He was always able to do that. That's what he was about and that's the reason we're here, to pick each other up.”
The two schools came together in Duncan to help all three parties involved try to make something positive out of Lane's death. Picking each other up, something Lane always did best.