(Photo: Dylan Williams family photo via The Indianapolis Star)
Indianapolis-- The death this week of an 8-year-old Union City boy hit by a baseball during an all-star game practice has left a small community in stunned grief.
Dylan Williams was hit in the head by a ball Tuesday and brought to Riley Hospital for Children, where he died Wednesday after his family opted to have him taken off life support.
Union City Mayor Bryan Conklin had to stop to compose himself several times as he talked about Dylan's death on Thursday.
"It's probably one of the saddest things I've ever heard," Conklin said in a telephone interview. His voice cracked, he stopped, then apologized.
He has two children himself, the mayor said, and they're older, but ... he was imagining the pain of Dylan's parents.
"For a kid to be playing something he likes to do, and then ... it's just ... heart-breaking."
Union City, about 95 miles northeast of Indianapolis, has a population of about 5,000, Conklin said, and many of them are connected. He used to work with Dylan's grandfather, another city employee worked for a grandmother and "everybody just knows everybody," Conklin said.
Discussions were beginning about when and how the city might hold a remembrance or memorial event for Dylan, but nothing was firm, the mayor said.
Michael Fulk, baseball all-star coordinator with the Union City Baseball Boosters, said no decisions had been made about play for the rest of the season, either. The teams were scheduled for a tournament this weekend, but things are up in the air, he said.
Counselors are being made available for children and their families, he said.
An autopsy Thursday by the Marion County Coroner's office showed Dylan died of "complications of blunt force trauma" to the right side of his head and neck.
Dylan's father, Erick Williams, was coaching at the time and saw his son get hit, he told Dayton, Ohio, television station WHIO-TV.
"He was playing first base and they went to throw a ball to him and he wasn't really looking, and to me it looked like it hit him in the side of the neck and he just dropped to the ground," Williams told the television station.
The Star left a message for the family for possible additional comment, but did not hear back from them.
Union City Police Chief Colbie Wells said information about the incident was limited, and police still are investigating.
Generally, youth baseball is considered a safe sport, but there is limited data.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a USA Baseball baseball study of players from T-ball age to college found 39 deaths among 82.6 million participants between 1989 and 2006.
The newspaper, in a story last year after a 12-year-old died after being injured by a baseball while playing catch with a teammate, also cited a study by an emeritus professor of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He found an annual average of 29,038 injuries among the 1.7 million participants, for an injury rate of 1.69 per 1,000 participants.
After the same incident, The Chicago Tribune, while cautioning that no comprehensive account of injuries exists, cited a limited study commissioned by USA Baseball. That review showed that between 1989 to 2010, 18 children younger than high school age died of baseball injuries.