It was two days after his 10th birthday, and Lazar LaPenna had just smacked his first hit of the Little League Season.
While rounding first base and smiling ear to ear, he was congratulated by his older brother, who was coaching first base. Lazar then flashed “the biggest smile” at his dad and coach, Gregg. For an instant, it seemed like a perfect spring Friday in Long Beach.
But what happened in the moments that followed was crushingly heartbreaking.
“I’m holding the scorebook as he looks at me with the biggest smile,” Gregg LaPenna said in a post to the True Mets fans Facebook group on Sunday. “I look down at the book to mark his single. That’s when my, my family’s life change.
“Lazar collapsed with excitement and went into a seizure,” he continued.
LaPenna said it wasn’t the first time. His boy was diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age.
“Little did we know it would be the last,” he said.
In a message to the community posted on Facebook over the weekend, Long Beach Public Schools reported that Lazar, a fourth-grader at East School, “passed away suddenly at a baseball game” and that all of the district’s schools “will have counselors available next week for any student who may need or want help or any type of assistance surrounding this loss.”
News12 is reporting this morning that Lazar died while playing in a Long Beach-Lido Little League game at Point Lookout Park.
Earlier in Gregg LaPenna’s poignant post, he spoke of his son’s unwavering support for the New York Mets — that the “Mets have lost their biggest fan.”
Lazar’s last hit came in his team’s first game of the season, his dad said.
“He was so excited,” LaPenna said. “On his birthday, he says to me Dad I know I’m 10 but can I stay number 9 forever.
“He was the true definition of what [Little League] stands for,” he continued. “Fun and excitement for the game of baseball.”
Top image: Facebook/True Mets fans