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Fields of Broken Dreams

Freak Death of Baseball Player is Fifth Fatality This School Year and Many Are Pondering the Sense of It All

May 08, 1997|ERIC SHEPARD

KRISTON PALOMO ST. BERNARD HIGH: A Passion Player Baseball: Kriston Palomo will be buried Saturday in his baseball jersey accompanied by his bat and glove.

"He's our angel in the outfield now," said Diana Palomo, his mother.

That's the way Kriston Palomo would have wanted to be remembered, friends and family members said. He had been consumed by baseball since he was old enough to hold a ball.

Palomo, a 16-year-old sophomore from St. Bernard High in Playa Del Rey, died Sunday night, a day after having his throat crushed by the bill of another boy's batting helmet when the two collided during a game at Torrance Bishop Montgomery.

Fernando and Diana Palomo watched the incident from stands and were at their son's side when paramedics arrived.

"I know my son lived for the chance to play baseball," Fernando said. "He knew he had a future in the sport and worked hard to make the most of the opportunity."

Fernando was his son's lifelong coach, starting with a mini-bat and ball when Kriston was a year old. There was T-ball at 5 and Little League at 7. The interest never waned.

By the time he reached high school, Palomo was playing the game year-round. He joined the West Coast Yankees travel team last fall and played against all-star teams around the country.

Fernando rarely missed a game and already had planned his summer vacation around traveling with his son to two tournaments in Florida.

At 6 feet 3 and 185 pounds, Kriston was bigger and stronger than many of his teammates. Hitting was his strength. Only the third freshman to start on the varsity at St. Bernard in the last 14 years, he had 14 home runs and a batting average over .400 the last two seasons.

Despite his talent, Palomo never looked down on less talented teammates.

"I've been watching this kid since he was 10," said Bob Yarnall, St. Bernard's coach. "His talent was enormous, but he always listened to coaches and teammates. He was smart enough to realize he still had a lot to learn."

Kriston, who grew up in Westchester, usually had a smile on his face and seldom lost his temper. That may explain how well he handled his parents' divorce 2 1/2 years ago, leaving him and his younger sister, Stephanie, with their mother.

"Like any kid, he was upset at first, but his mom and I promised him we would all stay close and be friends," Fernando said. "I still called and woke him up every morning and spent nearly every day with him."

More than 800 students, their families and faculty members attended a memorial service at St. Bernard on Monday morning. Teammates gathered afterward, voting to continue their season despite the loss.

"The kids knew Kriston would have wanted them to go on," Yarnall said.

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