It was the sporting field where Chris Lane's baseball dreams began – and where, on Sunday afternoon, hundreds of friends, family and teammates fell silent for a soulful minute in his memory.
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Chris Lane honoured in tribute game
Family and friends of slain baseballer Chris Lane came together at the Essendon Baseball Club to attend a tribute game in his honour.
A tribute game was held at the ground – headquarters in Strathmore Heights for the Essendon Baseball Club - to honour the young man known as ''Laney'', the happy and popular 22-year-old shot dead last week in Duncan, Oklahoma.
''We've had sensational support,'' said grieving father Peter Lane, ''both here and in the States but it is support for the worst possible reason.''
The Lane family were joined by the murdered baseball player's American girlfriend, Sarah Harper, and her parents and brother. Ms Harper accompanied her boyfriend's body back from the US on Saturday.
Mr Lane said his son would have been amazed at the media coverage. ''A front page calling him a baseball star!'' he said. ''He would have had a huge laugh at that because it's the last thing he would have seen himself as. There have been quite a few things he would have taken the absolute micky out of. Me crying for a start! He would have told me to toughen up. But he also would have been surprised at how many people have said such nice things about him, as a baseballer and as a person.''
The Essendon club was where Chris Lane started as a junior at age seven. ''I remember him back then, playing in a tournament,'' said Steve Morris, club vice-president. ''He was so tired afterwards, put in so much effort, that his dad had to carry him to the car. He was a kid who loved his footy, loved his baseball, loved being around his teammates.''
If poet Samuel Butler was right – that the dead are kept alive ''on the lips of living men'' – Chris Lane was certainly there in spirit. Almost everyone seemed to have a story to tell.
''Fantastic baseballer,'' said Dean McIntyre. ''Loved a drink too. I remember after losing a grand final we got stuck in to it and ended up knocking on the front door of a teammate somewhere in the city. Spent the night on the floor, got up at 9am and got stuck into it again. Since then we've won two flags so maybe that's what we needed.''
James Early played six years with Chris Lane as a junior. ''I'd sometimes stay at his house Saturday night so we could get a good start for away games. He was the sort of person you picked first, not just because of his skill but because everyone wanted to be on his side.''
Nick Djorgonoski recalled the time he and Chris Lane were in the same combined Diamond Valley team when the older members attacked the younger group in a big food fight. ''I think the young ones ended up winning,'' said Djorgonoski,'' because they had to clean it all up.''
The club erected a marquee at the ground. At 1.50pm a mass of black and red balloons was released by the Essendon and Melbourne University teams, each bearing Chris Lane's number 40.
His mother Donna said that after the initial shock of losing her only son, she had ''opened up her heart'' in response to the flood of tributes and sympathy.
''This is a tough gig,'' she said, ''but that has helped a lot.''