Mikey Duarte is with the Chicago White Sox at this year’s spring training, hoping to put in the work and one day achieve his dream of becoming a big league baseball player.
His mind, though, is always somewhere else.
Duarte’s younger sister Christiana was one of the 58 victims murdered in the Las Vegas shooting last October. Separated by only 16 months, the two were inseparable. They even planned to attend the Route 91 Harvest Festival to see Jason Aldean together with Mikey buying the tickets.
A baseball injury kept Duarte back in Arizona so Christiana went to the concert with Duarte’s then-girlfriend Ariel Romero. Both were shot when Stephen Paddock opened fire from one of the towers at Mandalay Bay. Romero made it, but Christiana Duarte did not. She was only 22.
“I had a ticket to go and I had to come here,” an emotional Duarte said while speaking to White Sox beat reporters at the team’s facility in Glendale, Arizona. “It should have been me.
“I think about it now, why wasn’t I the one dead? I would do anything to just press a button and she’d come alive because she was so happy, so perfect.”
Duarte described every day as a “living nightmare” for his parents and him, their close-knit family reduced from four to three in one horrible night. His Twitter feed is a heartbreaking mix of pleas for gun control reform and old pictures and videos of Christiana, who had recently graduated from the University of Arizona and had her whole life in front of her.
Getting drafted. Now taking off for my first spring training. Doesnt feel real. Hug your brothers and sisters so tight and never be afraid to kiss your momma. For you Cheekies !! I miss you and love you so much. pic.twitter.com/bsxzqyB7PQ
— Michael Christiana Duarte (@DuarteMjduarte) February 26, 2018
You should be here! Everything just right expect for one thing i miss you so damn much!! Every tear i she’s its you laughing up there in heaven pic.twitter.com/sGhmoGhSPA
— Michael Christiana Duarte (@DuarteMjduarte) January 6, 2018
I promised you i would protect you, the way you protected me our whole lives!!!!!! I’m sooooo sorry!!!!! pic.twitter.com/P8etmtm3gy
— Michael Christiana Duarte (@DuarteMjduarte) January 16, 2018
Duarte has been adamant that the nation needs to address its gun laws and his tweets have increased in the wake of the Parkland shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“I just think there needs to be change in this world because there’s no reason that a school should be shot up with 17 kids dead. A church, 26 people dead. A concert in Las Vegas, 58 dead,” Duarte said on Monday. “It just keeps happening over and over again and it’s not going to stop until our people high up do something about it.
“There’s no reason to have a semi-automatic weapon. If you need to protect your home, you should be able to have a pistol at your house, to protect someone if they break in your house. There’s no reason to have an AR-15 or a bump stock weapon to kill hundreds of people at a time.”
Duarte is a shortstop and was drafted in the 23rd round out of UC-Irvine in last summer’s MLB draft. While the road to the big leagues will be long, Duarte is looking forward to the sport providing both a distraction and platform to honor his “baby sister.” He will have Christiana’s name stamped on his bats as well as sewn into his gloves.
While Christiana will not be able to have the career in pro sports that she dreamed of — a sports management major, she worked for both the LA Rams and Kings at the time of her death — Duarte plans to experience it for her.
“Coming back and playing baseball for the next seven months is going to mean more now than it probably has before,” Duarte said. “Because this is a game all of us love, including her. She was excited to finally come watch me in a professional game, in uniform. She was just really excited, my mom and dad, too. But we’re going to do it for her.”