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Matt’s Musings:

Fallen teammates not gone

June 11, 2009|By Matt Szabo

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were on the road Saturday night, but the Edison High baseball team had a couple of angels smiling on them at Angel Stadium.

They’ve been with the Chargers all season, on their magical ride to the Sunset League championship and the CIF Southern Section Division I title game.

Nick Mazzone IV, an Edison junior who played on the junior varsity baseball team last year, passed away Feb. 3 of complications from the flu. Freshman team member Richard “R.J.” Gonzales drowned March 22, after suffering a heart attack while swimming.

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The deaths hit Coach Steve Lambright hard. The fact that they weren’t varsity players didn’t matter; they were members of the Edison baseball program. It’s always a family atmosphere for Lambright, whose son, Nolan, is a batboy.

Banners were put up in remembrance of the players at the Chargers’ field, and patches (No. 1 for Gonzales and No. 5 for Mazzone) were sewn on jerseys. And the fact that Edison dealt with the adversity so well is what makes Lambright so proud, maybe even more than any win accomplished on the diamond.

“I didn’t want it to be a built-in excuse,” Lambright said. “I didn’t want it to be a reason why we didn’t do well. But baseball has been a sort of therapy for us.”

Nick Mazzone was formerly a standout pitcher for Huntington Valley Little League. Mazzone’s dad, also named Nick, coached his elder son on the 2004 HVLL Majors squad that won the District 62 tournament and advanced all the way to the Section 5 title game. Edison senior second baseman Ryan Little was also a member of that team.

Huge Pittsburgh Steelers fans, Nick took Nick IV and younger son Justin to Super Bowl XLIII this year to see Pittsburgh beat Arizona. Nick IV would die two days later, an unthinkable turn of events.

Adding to the sorrows, Gonzales suddenly passed away right after Edison opened Sunset League play. His mom, Sandra Garcia, described him as maybe 4-foot-10, 77 pounds “on his best day.”

“You saw him out there and he looked like nothing, but he tried,” Garcia said. “He was very motivated. The team loved him for that.”

The Chargers didn’t do a lot of talking about Mazzone and Gonzales, at least not as a group. But the kids don’t forget.

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