Southeast Pitcher Remembers Slain Australian Baseball Player As A Charismatic Jokester
A pitcher on Southeast Missouri State University’s baseball team has a close connection to the Australian baseball player who was murdered last month in Oklahoma. The murdered Australian, Chris Lane, was Tyler Iago’s catcher at Redlands Community College. Iago transferred this semester to Southeast.
The way Tyler Iago talks about him, the 22-year old Lane was a fun guy to be around.
“He was definitely the jokester. He always had a smart comment. He definitely related to Australia being better than America many, many times. It was always funny jokes,” Iago said.
Chris Lane was murdered in August while taking a jog near his girlfriend’s home in Duncan, Oklahoma. While running, three teenagers shot Chris in the back. According to prosecutors, the boys killed Lane at random. One told police they were bored, so they decided to kill someone.
Tyler Iago said Chris Lane was a leader on the field who helped lift his teammates through difficult times.
“He was always one to carry himself high,” Iago said. “He would definitely lead on the field by telling you if you were messing up and he was always there to correct you, but the moment you were down he was calling timeout and he was out to the mound to pick you back up.”
Off the field, Iago said his friend was a leader who brought shy people out of their shell. He fit in well with the close-knit team. He was persuasive, and even convinced a bunch of his American teammates to watch the Australian rules football championship with him for three hours.
Chris Lane’s girlfriend was on the golf team. Iago says Lane tried golf, but never quite got the hang of it. Otherwise, he liked to spend time with his friends on the team.
“We would cook out pretty regularly at our house. There’s not much to do in the town of El Reno, where I school was, so I mean it was a lot of hanging out in our apartment, just being together more,” Iago said.
Tyler learned about his friend’s death when he was going out for the night with four other players from the team. It was the night before Tyler would head off to Southeast.
“It was hard to believe. We had to text people back from his hometown to find out. Even throughout that night, I was texting our head coach back from JUCO and got to verify it. It was just harder to believe,” Iago said. “That was one of our best friends for two years that we spent together.”
Tyler Iago and another former teammate set up a gofundme.com account to raise money to send their friend’s body back to Australia and pay for the funeral. They set their goal for $15,000. Within a week, they surpassed $170,000.
“We’ve been in contact with his parents and his sister and his girlfriend and her family. As you can imagine, the funeral and everything has been paid for through them,” Iago said. “We’re going to set up a Chris Lane Foundation and it’s going to go to Little League departments and scholarships. His parents just want to donate to help kids chase the dream that he didn’t get to finish. With that much money we raised, it’s going to go to a lot of good causes.”
Tyler Iago has two years left before he finishes school at Southeast Missouri State University. When he’s done, he wants to take a trip to Australia to visit Chris Lane’s family and see the proposed Little League field to be built in his honor.