SEMO transfer students help aid fallen former teammate
It was the small-town feel at Southeast Missouri State that led Tyler Iago to leave Oklahoma for Cape Girardeau.
"For me to come 10 hours from home, I was attracted quite a bit to [the community]," Iago said.
The right-handed pitcher transferred from Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla. along with Ryan Lenaburg and Greg Mosel, all of whom played alongside Christopher Lane, a guy who knew all about traveling far from home.
"You'd want him on the field, he was the leader everyone dreamed of. He was vocal and always there to pick you up. He was definitely the leader of the team the two years I had to spend with him," Iago said.
Lane landed in the Sooner state, nearly 10,000 miles from his native Australia to pursue his dream of playing baseball.
But on Aug. 16, his dream turned to tragedy.
Three teenagers shot and killed the Australian baseball player while he was out for a run in Duncan, Okla., visiting his girlfriend.
Police described the shooting as a random act of violence.
"We got a phone call from a person on our team from Duncan and heard the news," Iago recalled. "It was almost disbelief, we didn't believe it. That was the last person you'd expect something tragic like that to happen to. One of the most friendly guys I've ever been around, and for him to die in such a tragic way, it was hard to grasp and still is."
An outpouring of support rushed in. Iago knew he wanted to help his former catcher's family any way he could. So he and former teammate Marshall Veal started a fund for their fallen teammate on gofundme.com, hoping to raise $15,000 to pay for the cost of the funeral and flying Chris's body home.
They passed that total in 14 hours. They ultimately raised more than $170,000.
"It's hard to imagine that someone so close has created so much attention," Iago said. "Raising that much money to go to support whatever his parents choose...to help kids chase the dream he didn't get to finish, it definitely makes it a little bit easier."
Iago lost a friend, but he knows Lane's legacy will live on.
"The story myself and Chris and my teammates would want to come out would be that kids from Oklahoma or Missouri or all over their world that they don't stop chasing their dreams. He was one to come halfway around the world for an education and to continue playing baseball and with the money we've raised I hope we can make that possible for many kids, however that may be."