November 10 - There was nobody that represented what America should be more than Cody Coffman. And yet, it is today’s America that has taken him from us.
Only 22, Cody was one of the 12 victims of the mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, CA on Wednesday night. He was a USSSA umpire and the chief umpire for the Camarillo Pony Baseball youth league, wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat around town, and planned to enlist in the Army. He had three young brothers that looked up to him, and a little sister on the way, due to be born at the end of the month.
She will never get to meet him.
Blake Dingman was 21 years old, a former baseball player at nearby Hillcrest Christian School. He was also one of the victims killed on Wednesday night.
This column isn’t directly related to Northern Virginia, which is what I generally write about. I don’t care. This latest shooting, which occurred some 2,700 miles away on the other side of the country, should hit home for anyone involved in the game of baseball. Mass shootings have become the norm in our country, they represent what apparently is the new America.
Coffman was a leader who "loved working with the kids,” commented an umpiring colleague. He died while attempting to protect others, according to several reports. By all accounts, and I’ve read and watched several online these past two days, he had a tremendous future ahead of him. Dingman was described by his high school coach in a story in the Thousand Oaks Acorn as someone with a “magnetic personality,” adding that, “He loved the game of baseball but he loved his friends and family even more.”
It’s got to stop. For parents in our area, simply go online and watch the video of Coffman’s father, who was donning a Los Angeles Dodgers hat in front of reporters when he revealed that his son was one of the victims. The man had just had his life ripped to shreds, and watching him is heartbreaking. That could be any of you. Cody and Blake could be any of us.
Just a few days before Veterans Day Weekend, two military veterans - a former Navy SEAL and former Marine - were among those killed in the shooting. The shooter was also a military veteran, reportedly suffering from PTSD. Since the shooting at the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 90 people have been shot in 12 mass shootings in the United States - and 36 died. One of the shootings occurred in Watertown, N.Y., where my cousin is a police officer. A police officer at the Thousand Oaks shooting was also one of the victims after reporting to the scene and entering the bar in attempt to halt the shooter. That sure gives me pause.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I am pro guns, and that I’m a republican who voted for Donald Trump. And while our President does, says or tweets something each day to make me question that ballot, my ability to defend our laws regarding firearms also wanes.
It’s one of the biggest issues facing our country today, and something needs to change.
We had two taken from our extended baseball family on Wednesday night. Our military, celebrating their brothers this weekend, now mourns additional unnecessary losses. This morning, the league that Coffman umpired for will be holding a moment of silence at 7:50 a.m. their time - 10:50 a.m. EST - at Veterans Field in Camarillo, CA’s Freedom Park. I challenge everyone reading this column to take that moment to reflect on what’s important in your life, and what it would be like to have that taken away in an instant.
I know I will be.
Rest in peace, Cody and Blake. Many of our readers are thousands of miles away, but very much present with your loved ones and with heavy hearts this morning.
Photos of Blake Dingman, left, and Cody Coffman, right, courtesy of their respective families