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Yankees honor son of church shooting victim on first day of HOPE week

The New York Yankees' Brian McCann, left, Chris

The New York Yankees' Brian McCann, left, Chris Singleton and Brett Gardner talk outside the batting cage before the Yankees' game against the Minnesota Twins Monday, Aug 17, 2015, at Yankee Stadium. Singleton's mother, Sharonda, was one of nine parishioners killed in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church shooting in Charleston, S.C. Photo Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun

Just two months removed from incomprehensible tragedy, Chris Singleton was doing his best Carlton Fisk impression during batting practice at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

Singleton clobbered a ball down the leftfield line, taking aim at his third home run of the afternoon. He motioned for it to stay fair, but it hooked left at the last moment.

"I'll count it anyway," he said with a smile.

The three homers capped a whirlwind day for the 19-year-old, who was honored during the first day of the Yankees' HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel).

His mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 -- a minister at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina -- was among the nine parishioners who lost their lives in a shooting at the church in June.

A day after the tragedy, Singleton said he already had forgiven the perpetrator. "There's nothing but love from our side of the family," he said.

On July 22, the rising sophomore and baseball player at Charleston Southern University posted on Twitter, "The good outweighs the bad even on your worst days."

"Obviously, this is an amazing young man," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's had to deal with a lot of sadness recently in his life. But he's chosen the high road and the importance of love."

Singleton and his sister, Camryn, 15, and his brother, Caleb, 12, all threw out first pitches before the Yankees' game against the Twins.

On Monday morning, Singleton and his siblings, along with his college baseball coach and mentor at Charleston Southern, Stuart Lake, were surprised on the set of "The Today Show" by Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances and Alex Rodriguez.

Lake was an assistant coach at Charleston Southern while Gardner played for the school from 2003 to 2005. Gardner and Singleton shared an instant connection.

"It's pretty special," Gardner said. "It's pretty evident that his mom was a special person and she did a really good job raising those three kids.

"His home and my home aren't too far apart," he added. "He definitely lived up to everything I had heard about him. He's an outstanding young man and I think he's got a bright future ahead of him."After he took batting practice, Singleton joined Gardner in leftfield to shag fly balls.

"He's been really awesome to me," Singleton said. "As soon as we met this morning on 'The Today Show,' he's been hanging around me the whole day. So it's been awesome."

Singleton's second stop of the day was at One World Observatory, where he received a private tour and lunch with Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Willie Randolph, Masahiro Tanaka, Justin Wilson and Chris Young.

When he arrived at Yankee Stadium, Singleton found his locker situated between Tanaka's and Ivan Nova's in the clubhouse. Tanaka walked over to his new friend for a fist bump, and Nova was quick to introduce himself.

Even players from the Minnesota Twins, such as Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer, made sure to meet Singleton during batting practice.

"[They] were just talking to me, saying how I've been such a role model and things like that," Singleton said. "So that was a real honor . . . People I would never have thought I would meet. I played with them in video games, so it's cool to actually meet them in real life.

"Honestly, I was in shock at first, but now it feels like a dream."

From the start, Singleton impressed the Yankees with his maturity, his compassion, his heart . . . and yes, his three home runs during batting practice.

"You never know," Girardi said with a smile. "Maybe he'll be here in a couple of years, on an everyday basis."


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