Today, I'd love for you to read the words of my brother Scott, who learned last Sunday that one of his former Princeton players, Connor O'Gorman, had been tragically killed...struck by a car as he crossed a Manhattan street.
Thursday, when I watched all the news reports of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart's tragic passing, I quietly thought about Connor and how he touched the life of my brother and so many of his Princeton teammates.
All week I've been contemplating writing a tribute based on the words Scott spoke to me on Tuesday over the phone. But lo and behold, today as I googled the name Connor O'Gorman for the 100th time this week, I saw that Scott had written a tribute of his own on the Princeton sports website. This weekend, Connor's teammates past and present will return to Clarke Field to honor their friend.
By Scott Bradley
Head Baseball Coach
In July of 1997 I was hired to be the head baseball coach here at Princeton University. And as I anxiously awaited the start of my first season, I often looked at the names of the returning players as well as the members of the incoming class, wondering who the impact players were going to be. I reviewed the statistics from the previous years and tried to figure out which player would provide the leadership we needed to have a successful program. Little did I know at the time but the pleasant young man who walked into my office with his Dad, asking to tryout for the team would become exactly the player we needed.
About a week before Orientation began for the Class of 2001, Connor O’Gorman knocked on my door and asked for an opportunity to walk on to the baseball team. He seemed like a good kid and his baseball resume was different than most of the other players. He learned to play baseball growing up in the Atlanta area but his high school years were spent in Singapore where he attended the Singapore American School. Still, there was something special about this young man and I agreed to let him work out with the team when our fall practices began. I was certain that I would let him practice for a few days and then he would figure out that he was not good enough to play with all of our recruited players.
For the next two weeks Connor lived at Clarke Field. He was always there. When I drove past the batting cages on the way to my office he was hitting off the batting tee. When I went to get some lunch, he was there. And when I left at the end of the day he was still there. I jokingly asked him, "Are you actually enrolled at Princeton?" because it seemed as though he did not have any academic responsibilities or worries. He smiled and looked me directly in the eye and said, “Coach, I handle myself very well in the classroom and you do not have to worry about my grades. But baseball is what I live for.” Not long after that, I told him that, more than likely, he'd never play a meaningful inning while at Princeton, but if he promised to work hard and keep his positive attitude he could have a uniform for as long as he wanted. He once again looked me directly in the eye and responded, “That is all I needed to hear.”
For the next four years Connor O’Gorman was our impact player. He made everyone on the team a better player because of the work ethic and passion he brought to the field every day. He was the best friend and teammate anyone could ever possibly have and he impacted all of our lives.
We won Ivy League Championships in 2000 and 2001 and although Conner did not have many opportunities to play, he put his stamp on the personality of the team. He was well-known for making passionate speeches about the importance of Princeton baseball and what it meant to be part of the baseball family. For several years after graduation Connor would return to campus in the fall so that he could give his speech to the freshman players, so that they also understood.
We played Harvard in a doubleheader this past Sunday and Connor was to meet up with his best friend and Princeton teammate Andrew Hanson in Boston so that they could watch us play. He did not make it to Cambridge. Connor was tragically killed early Sunday morning when he was hit by a car, while walking back to his Manhattan apartment. In between games of the doubleheader, I spotted Andrew along the fence behind our dugout and I immediately walked towards him to say hello. As soon as Andrew looked up I could tell that something was wrong.
While it is hard to imagine that someone who appeared in only 16 games during a four -year career could be considered an impact player, after reading the numerous e-mails I have received in the past two days from former players, some who played with Connor and others who had not, there is no doubt that the title is accurate.
Connor may not have impacted the game between the lines but he impacted all of our lives in so many ways. His passion for the game of baseball was contagious and his devotion and loyalty to the program as well as his friends and teammates was undeniable.
He cared more about wearing a Princeton baseball uniform than any player or coach we have ever had -- or will ever have -- in the program.
Our team won the 2001 Ivy League Championship with a dramatic come-from-behind, extra inning win against Dartmouth. We had one last regular season game at home before the NCAA Tournament began and in the hours before the final contest virtually every one of the team's usual starters came to me and asked that Connor take their spot in the lineup. If my memory serves me correctly, Connor went 2 for 4 that day with a couple of RBI’s and as he told me after the game, “ I finally did something to help the team.”
Little did he know.
Rest in peace, Connor.