MONTICELLO (WCIA) — In times of tragedy, words are often hard to come by. It’s usually more about action when it’s difficult to put heartache into context, and that’s exactly what the Monticello softball team did Thursday afternoon.
Police officers lined the outfield of the Sages softball field, a pregame moment of silence and the team’s seniors walking from home plate to the outfield to present the flag, raised to half staff, all to support the Oberheim family. Tears were aplenty for the hundreds in attendance, emotions running high when Avery Oberheim stepped to the plate for the first time. She raised her arm high above her head and pointed to the sky, remembering her father Chris.
Less than 48 hours after Chris was shot and killed in the line of duty working as a Champaign Police Officer, Avery was back on the field. Many asked if she wanted to postpone the game against Bloomington Central Catholic but she insisted, saying it’s what her dad would have wanted, to play. Chris was a dedicated dad, who worked nights with CPD so he could coach his girls’ teams. Avery is the second of four kids, signed to continue her career at Heartland Community College next year. And the only thing she wanted, along with everyone at the park, was to see her get a hit against Bloomington Central Catholic. Her first bat she lined a hard hit ball to third. Then a pop out to second. But in her third time at the plate, she connected.
“I think everyone wanted to explode out of their seats,” Monticello head coach Lauren Klein said. “Just run out and give her the biggest hug in the world. That took some restraint, it was just a relief. It’s going to be okay, Avery’s on-base just like usual. We’re back to somewhat normalcy and Chris would have loved it.”
“Coach Klein has preached togetherness and family all year and that’s been one of the things we’ve strived for,” Monticello athletic director Dan Sheehan said. “Our girls got here first thing this morning with a plan in place and they executed and they decorated everything. They wanted to show their commitment and grieve with Avery.”
“This community and this school rallies around kids and families that are going through tough times and when we heard the news yesterday morning, this was something that our kids just immediately thought, ‘What can we do to help? What can we do to support the Oberheims?’ and it’s just really amazing to be a part of a school like that and a community like that,” Monticello principal Adam Clapp said.