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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

CRAIG KELFORD III PENINSULA HIGH: Nurtured on Faith

Discus: In his 16 years, Craig Kelford III touched many people's lives.

That may explain why more than 1,200 mourners attended his funeral late last month. They came to say goodbye to the sophomore from Palos Verdes Peninsula High, who died April 23, a day after being hit in the back of the head by a flying discus during a track meet with North Torrance.

He was on life-support systems for 20 hours after the incident. His parents requested that his vital organs be donated for transplants.

"We're grateful that his organs will be used to help seven other people," said Craig Kelford II, his father.

After their son's death, Kelford II and his wife, Carolyn, talked about how their strong religious faith would help them make sense of the loss.

"We're praising the Lord for the good times we had with him," said Carolyn, who teaches math at Peninsula. "It was a good 16 years. We don't understand this accident, but we trust the Lord has a plan for us."

Her son also was deeply religious. He had taken two trips to the Philippines to do missionary work with his congregation, worked part time at a Christian bookstore in Torrance and was active in his church's youth group.

When Kelford II went to retrieve his son's truck at school after his death, he found a Bible on the front seat. The younger Kelford had been studying it the morning of the accident.

"His faith was real, and it prepared him for Tuesday [the day of the accident]," the Rev. Bill McPhee said at the funeral.

The younger Kelford was an active teenager. His 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame made him a natural for the discus, which requires great strength. He threw the discus alongside his sister, Karin, last year when she was a senior on the team.

"My son loved the discus and I don't think he'd want the event banned because of what happened," Kelford II said. "He would probably say something like, 'Keep your head up.' "

The teenager took an interest in kayaks and built a two-seat kayak with his father to paddle to Catalina. He also was a diligent student who planned to go to college.

Two days after the incident, Peninsula participated in a regularly scheduled meet with Lawndale Leuzinger.

"The kids want to remember Craig in the best possible way," Peninsula Coach Joe Kelly said. "I've never seen a group pull together so well. They're dealing with their feelings for their fallen teammate."

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