Longtime Texas Rangers fan Robbie Parker, who lost his daughter Emilie in the the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn. threw out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers home opener at the Ballpark in Arlington. (Video courtesy MLB and Texas Rangers)
The parents of a 6-year-old Texas Rangers fan who was killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day.
The Rangers lost one of their biggest fans in the shooting, when 26 children and adults were killed on Dec. 15. Emilie Parker was only 6, but she watched the Rangers with her father and even got to see them play in person at Fenway Park.
During batting practice at that game, Emilie caught a home run ball from David Murphy, who immediately became her favorite player.
On Friday, Murphy accompanied Emilie's parents and sister to the mound for the ceremonial first pitch.
As Robbie and Allisa Parker headed to the pitcher's mound, there were plenty of cheers, but those cheers quickly turned to tears in one of the more emotional moments in the history of Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
"It was really tough to keep my emotions under control out there," Robbie Parker said. "It was pretty amazing."
Parker and his family have not accepted appearance requests since the shooting. They said they didn't think it was appropriate, but said Friday was different because of all the support they've gotten from Texans and Rangers fans.
"We just really thought that this would be a really neat way to express our gratitude and sincere appreciation for everyone who has supported us and with everything you've done with prayers and cards and kind words and gestures," he said.
Twice on the mound, there were moments where even the stadium itself seemed to shed a tear -- first when there Allisa Parker received a hug from her daughter's favorite player and then during the hug between Robbie Parker and Rangers legend Pudge Rodriguez.
Parker said he told him, "'I just want you to know how much I love you and your daughter. She is a great example to so many people.'"
"And he pointed to the crowd and said, 'all these people are here for you and here because of her,'" he said.
Parker said he hopes that kind of moment -- the hope people feel at the start of a season and the love they share with his hurting family -- can keep his daughter's legacy alive.
"My daughter is an amazing person and what she was able to do in my life and change the way I look at the world and the way my wife and I look at the world and treat each other -- I just want to make sure she continues to inspire other people to do that," he said. "She's an amazing person, and she's going to continue to do great things."
The Parkers have started a charity, the Emilie Parker Art Connection. Art was a way that Emilie expressed herself they decided to give back to local and school art programs.