Javelinas honor fallen teammate with performance
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Denver Diefenbach will never forget a Sunday morning last December when he was awakened by three detectives from the Kingsville Police Department.
The detectives informed Diefenbach that Travis Madden, his roommate and teammate on the Texas A&M-Kingsville baseball team, had been found dead at an apartment complex off campus.
Diefenbach had been with Madden, 18, earlier that night, but had returned to their dorm room to study for a final exam.
"We already had our room situations for the upcoming semester and I knew and Travis knew he wasn't going to get redshirted and he was going to be part of the team," said Diefenbach before the Javelinas game against the University of Houston-Victoria on Saturday at Riverside Stadium. "He had a great fall and we were definitely looking forward to it because we were good friends and our families are good friends."
Diefenbach went to high school at St. Joseph and had played in baseball tournaments with Madden, who attended Memorial before transferring to Industrial for his junior and senior year.
"He was a goofy guy, but he was serious when he needed to be serious," Diefenbach said. "He loved to have a good time, but he was a great man and a great roommate."
Texas A&M-Kingsville coach Jason Gonzales broke the news of Madden's death to the players.
"That's one of the hardest conversations I've ever had in my entire life," Gonzales said. "There's no protocol for doing it. We brought them all together and we told them what had happened and for about two hours we sat together as a team and did a lot of crying.
"We didn't do a whole lot of talking, but we sat there together. We had our team pastor there. It was my faith in God that got me through this. I'm not even sure if we're over this. I know we're not over this. We're still in the healing process. It's very fortunate for us that we've got baseball. There's not a day that goes by that he's not on our mind."
Gonzales said the team decided to put a sign with Madden's No. 37 in the bullpen at Nolan Ryan Field in Kingsville. Many of the players have written his initials on their caps.
Diefenbach hangs Madden's jersey in his apartment and brings it with him to every game.
"It was...it was...I don't know," Diefenbach sighed. "It was devastating. I guess in a good way it brought us all so close. We're so comfortable around each other and we have something to play for, for Travis."
Diefenbach admitted Madden's death and the recent death of his long-time coach and mentor Pat Montgomery has altered his outlook on life.
"It's a big wake-up call to reality and how precious life is and how much you love your family and the people you're around," he said. "You can't take anything for granted."
The Javelinas decided the best way to honor their teammate was with their performance on the field.
They did so against UHV by rallying for three runs in the ninth inning before winning 4-3 in 11 innings.
"It kind of went without saying that we were going to dedicate this season to him," Gonzales said. "I told the guys that comes with a lot of pressure. It doesn't mean you have to win every game, but you've got to play hard like he would have wanted us to."