COLOGNE, Minn. (FOX 9) - One family’s devastating loss has inspired them to help others.
A few years ago their son took his own life. Since then, they have made sure his memory lives on through his favorite sport, holding a baseball tournament which also raises awareness about preventing suicide.
Friday, on a field of dreams in Cologne, Minnesota, America's pastime is much more than just a game.
"Andy loved playing catcher,” said John Hendel. “He loved being behind the plate, interacting with the pitcher. Throwing someone out. He just loved the game and loved being out there."
John Hendel says his son Andy always had a smile on his face and a baseball mitt in his hands. But when he was 16, he died by suicide, leaving his family and friends heartbroken that someone so young could take their own life.
Hendel says, "When he passed, it was an absolute shock to us. That helped us as a family say we got to learn more about what are some signs? What are some symptoms? What can we do to help educate others?"
So, six years ago, they decided to step up to the plate by starting the Andyman Classic -- a baseball tournament dedicated to raising awareness about suicide prevention and mental health in teens and young adults.
"Sometimes it’s not easy to smile, but it’s good to smile," Hendel said.
Each of the more than 220 players on 12 teams wears a smiley face in Andy's memory and hears from a special speaker about the warning signs in hopes of striking out suicide.
Because in this tournament, success isn't measured in balls and strikes, or hits, runs and errors. Getting these boys of summer to realize they are not alone one is the real homerun.
"It keeps his memory alive. It helps us share what we've gone through as a family and what we hope no other family has to go through."
Remember, if you're feeling in need of help, you are not alone. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Staff is available 24-7 to help everyone in need.