On warm June night in 2015, Charleston Southern baseball player Chris Singleton stood before a crowd of supporters and media members and spoke of his mother Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.
"Love is stronger than hate," he said.
Singleton's mother was one of nine killed when a gunman opened fire on a Bible study session June 17, 2015, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Roof, 21, later admitted to the killings as an effort to set off a race war.
Eight months later, all eyes were on Singleton again. This time, it was for his first baseball game of the season, his first time to play the game he has played since his childhood and get back to some sense of normalcy.
His RBI in the eighth inning wound up being the game-winner as CSU beat West Virginia, 4-3, on Feb. 16. It's judged the greatest sports moment in CSU history, not for what Singleton achieved but for what he inspired.
"We are mourning right now," Singleton said in 2015, speaking about his mother, a part-time minister at the church, a high school speech pathologist and coach of the girls track team. "But I know we will get through it. Love is stronger than hate. So if we love the way my mom did, the hate won’t be anything compared to what love is."
An outpouring of love and support followed.
Charleston Southern set up a memorial fund to help Singleton meet his educational expenses at the school. NFL quarterbacks Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots have had the Singleton kids up for games. New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner helped organize a special day for the Singletons at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 18.
Gardner played at the nearby College of Charleston, where Stuart Lake was an assistant. Lake is now Singleton's head coach at Charleston Southern, and was in attendance. Seeing two former players on the videoboard together at Yankee Stadium, standing out in left field, highlighted Lake's day.
The star of the day was Singleton, who launched a home run during batting practice.
"Obviously, an amazing young man who's had to deal with a lot of sadness," Yankees manager Joe Girardi told the Associated Press.
"They were talking about how strong I've been," Singleton said to the AP. Told that many have praised his actions, he softly said, "I don't know if I'm a role model."
• CSU Athletic Hall of Fame
Video courtesy of WCIV