43 Brothers for the Coach's Son - by Jerry Price

The hard part, of course, was coming back from the game or the amusement park to the reality. And then, the end came.

The entire Princeton team attended Ann's funeral, held in a packed church in Media, outside of Philadelphia. It was there that Chris and Nick sat together in the front row, surrounded by people who were there to celebrate Ann's life and to show their support for the father and son.

Ann Bates wasn't just a doctor, wife and mother. She was a deeply spiritual person. She was funny. Like her son, she was always smiling. She was always upbeat.

During one church trip to the South, she held a funeral for a diseased pet bird. After Drexel beat No. 1 Virginia, she stormed right past a startled security guard to join in the celebration on the field.

Sadly, it was only at her own funeral that most of the Princeton players learned all this.

"I never really got to know her," Fiorito says, echoing almost word for word what the other three players said as well. "My sophomore year, she was sick. The first time I really got to talk to her was at an end of year party that year. It's a shame that not too many of us got to know her well. We heard so many amazing things about her at the funeral. It's a shame we didn't get to see her passion every day. We didn't really get to meet her. I talked to her two or three times, but it wasn't enough. It's a shame, a huge shame."

"Sitting in the church," Wiedmaier says, "it was clear that she was a very, very special person. I would have loved to have gotten to know her better."

Now, on the verge of the 2012 season, a new reality has set in for the Bates family.

On most days, Nick comes home from school to a babysitter. Twice a week, he comes to Princeton with a neighbor, who drops him off on the way to a different activity in town. On those days, he sits in the locker room and does his homework before going out to practice.

"I'm sure it has to be an awesome thing for a kid growing up around Division I lacrosse players, first at Drexel and now here," Wiedmaier says. "He's a really mature kid for how young he is. He's tough. To be honest, obviously he's affected by not having his mom anymore. For a kid that age, though, I'm blown away by how tough he is."

The relationship between the players and Nick is one of mutual affection, to be sure.

"Part of the beauty of raising a kid as a college coach on a college campus is the ability for someone like Nick to interact with your team," Chris Bates says. "The kids at Princeton lacrosse are wonderfully high character young men who are exceptional student-athletes. I say all the time that if my son can grow up like the guys in the locker room here, I'll be content. When you go through something like we went through, that becomes heightened. That need becomes heightened. The need to be around people who care. People who put their arm around him. What these guys have done and shown him is pretty genuine and pretty special."

At a time when he needs it most.

"The players had a sense that Nick needed immediate support, and what they did was self-initiated, which is much more impressive," Bates says. "He's a sports nut. I ask him at breakfast what his goal for that day is, and he says it's to make two three-pointers. He loves Princeton hoops. T.J. Bray [of the men's basketball team] came up to him after they beat Harvard and said thank you to him. Someone like that interacts with a 10-year-old kid, that's impactful. He loves [men's basketball player] Doug Davis. He loves our guys He's impressed that they're high-level athletes and that they're driven, bright students. He wants to come to Princeton. That's a cool thing, and that's a credit to our guys. The play catch with him. They talk to him. They are all role models."

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2012-02-21



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