JOHNSTON, R.I. — The Johnston Little League has suspended play until Tuesday following the tragic death of one of its coaches.
The Johnston Little League posted a statement Thursday on Facebook asking for “thoughts and prayer” for the family of Thomas May, along with a link to a GoFundMe account to benefit the family.
May was killed and his daughter injured in a shooting Wednesday, allegedly by a neighbor, James Harrison, who police say also allegedly killed his mother, Janet Harrison, before he was killed in a standoff with police.
League president Joe Splendorio said May, known as “TJ” to friends, had two children. His daughter, 15, is in serious condition at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Johnston Police said.
“TJ was a son, husband, father, friend, mentor, coach and most of all, a great human being,” the league’s statement said. “We will miss him tremendously. We ask at this time please give TJ’s family their privacy.”
At Johnston Memorial Park, where May coached a team of 9- to 12-year-olds called the “Braves,” the league raised his team’s blue and white flag under a US Flag in center field in honor of the fallen coach.
Smiling gently, Splendorio recalled Thursday that May was one of the coaches who helped him plant the concrete posts for the flagpoles. He said May left a “positive” impression on his players.
“You can come up and strike out and you’re crying back to the dugout and he’s going to lift your spirits up,” Splendorio said. “You’re going to bat again, go play some good defense.”
After the games ended, and teams went to left and right field for a post-game talk, Splendorio said May’s players always left the field feeling “like winners” after receiving May’s positive feedback. Splendorio said he modeled his coaching after May.
“When his team left the dugout and left the field, they were like mini TJs,” Splendorio said. “They were not pouting, they’re not kicking stuff around. They are not too high or too low. Just even keel and being a positive person.”
Blinking back tears, coach Mike Orsini sat outside the Little League diamond Thursday and said the league lost an important part of their community due to a “senseless act of evil.”
Orisini, who said he and May were friends, recalled the coach’s character.
“Everybody wants to win right?” Orsini said. “He (May) put everything in perspective. It’s not about the winning, it’s about the character, it’s about the game. It’s about the relationships that you have with your players, with each other, with the game. That’s really in my eyes, what made him such a remarkable coach. He was the balance of not just his team but the whole league.”
Orsini said that for the rest of the season, the league will seek donations for May’s family during league events — the next is a car show on Memorial Day.