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TEEN PLAYER DIES AFTER COLLISION WITH A TEAMMATE

Published by the Boston Globe Date 06/29/2001, Page A1, Section Metro/Region. Author: Brian MacQuarrie, Globe staff, and Chris Frates, Globe Correspondent. Anand Vaishnav of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

BELMONT - The baseball shot toward the gap between the Belmont outfielders, and Brendan Grant reacted with the instinctive determination that had made him a local star.

But this time, Grant's will to win propelled him from left field into a violent collision with the center fielder on the town's Senior Babe Ruth League team.

The ball bounced away, Grant raised himself to his knees, and then the unthinkable happened.

On a balmy evening made for baseball, with more than 100 people gathered Wednesday at the high school field, Grant, age 18, died playing the game he loved.

From speeding youth to helpless victim, all in an instant that coach Dan Kelleher said "seemed like an eternity" for the stunned crowd of players, parents, and small-town friends.

Casey Grant, Brendan's father, had been at the game with his wife. He held his son, whose breathing had become labored, until an ambulance and paramedics rushed the family to Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge.

"At that time, we were thinking he was seriously injured, and that he would be OK," Grant said. "We were in the little room in the hospital, and they told us he didn't make it."

The official cause of death: fracture of the larynx and blunt trauma to the neck.

The center fielder, Charles Synnott, 16, was a close friend of Grant's. The death has been so devastating, said his father, James Synnott, that the teen-ager has been hospitalized himself.

"These kids are going to go through living hell," Synnott said of the baseball team. "You couldn't find two better kids anywhere."

Assistant coach Jim O'Shaughnessy, one of the first to reach Grant, called it "a freak accident that has left the town devastated. He was a great athlete. I've never seen anything like this before."

Death on the baseball field is rare. Art Taylor, former director of urban youth sports at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society, said he could not recall any previous such death in Massachusetts.

Grant was well-known in Belmont, a 2000 graduate of the high school who had captained the baseball team, played football, and wrestled. He had returned home from his freshman year at American International College in Springfield, where he also played baseball, to give Kelleher one final all-star year in the Middlesex Senior Babe Ruth League.

"He truly loved baseball; that was his sport," Kelleher said.

On Wednesday night, because he had a sore arm, Grant asked Kelleher if he could play left field instead of his customary third base. He already had hit a triple. And with his team leading Arlington, 4-1, in the sixth inning, Grant forgot soreness as he catapulted toward the ball and the collision.

As Arlington players rounded the bases, a Belmont infielder yelled toward Kelleher that Grant was not breathing properly. Paramedics arrived.

"They worked on him. We thought they had him back," Kelleher said. "We overheard paramedics saying his vital signs are fine."

But on-the-field concern soon turned to off-the-field shock.

"I went home and got my car and expected some good news that Brendan's OK, but he's got a fractured rib or something," Kelleher said. "And his dad came out and said, `Brendan's gone,' and I said, `What do you mean he's gone?'

"He said, `Brendan died,' and we hugged and cried."

Grant had no history of physical problems, and his father was left yesterday with the what-might-have-beens.

"What's tragic about this is: Who knows where dreams start and end? I always thought he had the right stuff," Casey Grant said. "I can say without hesitation that he is my hero. Not only was I his father, but I was his No. 1 fan."

Grant stressed that Brendan's death was a fluke, an accident for which there should be no blame.

Later, the elder Grant visited Synnott in the hospital. Last night, he also urged the Belmont Little League to play games as scheduled.

"We've lost a wonderful young man, and I don't want to see other young men dragged down by this," Grant said. "My son wouldn't either."

Kelleher broke down with emotion when he talked about Brendan Grant, the player and the young man, and the passion for baseball that they shared four or five times a week during the Babe Ruth season.

"Brendan was one of those kids who made me come to the park because he loved baseball," Kelleher said.

Grant's father said he is "grateful" to have been at the ballfield. "I guess if there are any silver linings, he died doing what he loved, and he died with us there."

His son will be forever 18 now, forever strong and fleet. And the words above his yearbook picture, paraphrased from the great baseball pitcher Satchel Paige, will forever ring true.

"Don't look back," the notation reads. "Your past might be gaining on you."

This article is used with the permission of the Globe Newspaper Company for the sole purpose of this website, and may not be republished without their permission.