In Honor of 'Bad News Bears' Sammi Kane Kraft

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Last week my husband and I attended a memorial service for Sammi Kane Kraft, a beautiful and talented young woman whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 20 in a drunk driving accident. Sammi was a passenger in a car driven by a young woman who was under the influence of alcohol. The driver survived.

We met Sammi several years ago, when her family moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast. She was an instant star at Toluca Baseball, where my son played. Most girls her age were playing softball, but Sammi was a baseball player, with a wicked pitch that clocked in at 70 miles plus when she was 13.

Bad News Bears' Sammi Kraft via Zumapress.com

Sammi epitomized the best qualities of an athlete – she was a team player, a good sport, and took the game seriously. My son remembers her this way, “She wasn’t a tomboy, she was definitely a girl, but the way it went down, she was just another guy on the team. It never seemed like, ‘oh, I don’t want her to go up to bat in a crucial situation,’ because she was good. She held her own.”

Sammi’s talents on the field led to her being cast as Amanda Whurlitzer in the 2005 remake of the Bad News Bears. The director wanted a real girl who could play baseball, and in Sammi’s own words from a 2005 LA Times article, she could throw, “a knuckleball, a knuckleball curve, a curveball, a changeup, a 70-mph fastball, a two-seam fastball and a four-seam fastball -- the whole thing." The director got what he was looking for and then some.

At her heartbreaking memorial, the rabbi said that Sammi, always thinking of others, had donated her organs, and would continue to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people for many years to come. Her friends spoke of being drawn to her the instant they met her. They mentioned food a lot, because apparently, Sammi liked her food and she liked to share it with friends.

Her brothers spoke eloquently about their beautiful little sister, who they were so proud to call their own. They shared her music, because Sammi was quite the accomplished singer songwriter, and their thoughts on her horrific death and their overwhelming loss.

After Sammi’s mother Lulu read a beautiful note written to Sammi by her grandmother for her bat mitzvah, her father Shelly addressed the hundreds of mourners, many of them young people reeling with sorrow. Shelly acknowledged that it had fallen to him to do the dirty work, to discuss how Sammi had died, because, he said, “You always think this stuff happens to other people. It’s not going to happen to me, you think. Well guess what, it happened to us.”

Shelly talked about getting the call in the middle of the night from the Highway Patrol, the worst possible call anyone can ever get. He went on to say that he and Lulu wanted to do something for Sammi and her friends. He said they know that young people like to go out, to have fun, and he doesn’t expect them to stop, but that he wants them to call him if they’re ever out and have been drinking, or their friends have been drinking, and they need a ride. It doesn’t matter what they’re on, he continued. If they don’t have the money for a cab, or don’t want to take a cab, whatever their situation, they will be picked up. No questions asked, no reporting to their parents later. He even said he and Lulu would both go, that way one of them could drive their car back for them.

It is difficult to understand the senseless death of Sammi Kane Kraft. For her family, it is impossible. Shelly and Lulu’s generous offer, which could save lives, underscores why their daughter was so loved; because she was raised in a family that put others first, and taught to embrace life and those around her.

In Sammi’s honor, I came home and posted a similar message on my Facebook wall. I offered to pick up any of my young friends, my children’s friends, who have had too much to drink, no questions asked, no reporting later, and included my phone number. Other friends who were at the memorial did the same thing. Some of my friends who never had the privilege of meeting Sammi have shared my post on their wall, along with their phone number.

I urge you to consider doing the same thing on your Facebook wall, in an email to your friends, or any way that you are comfortable spreading the word. Do it every few weeks, every few months, don’t let it stop. Let’s take back our streets. Let’s be there for each other’s children. Let’s honor Sammi and her family by taking their lead.

 

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