Eric Caroll loved baseball so much that even though he didn’t have a child old enough to play, he volunteered his time to coach a Sunshine Little League team in the Webster/Ridgeview neighborhood.
“It speaks volumes when you volunteer and help the kids because you don't have to do it, you’re not getting paid for it, it’s not mandatory, and he came out here and gave his time,” said Neil Delgado, coach’s coordinator for Sunshine Little League.
Caroll was shot around 1:30 a.m. on July 17 after he and another customer got into an argument at a liquor store on Federal Boulevard, just down the street from the baseball fields where he coached.
Caroll was loved and admired by all the players on his team, according to Delgado. At just 26 years old, Delgado said, most players saw him as an older brother.
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"He was like a friend,” said one of his players 13-year-old Issac Lopez. “He didn't feel like a coach. He was like a friend that just wanted to help you, help you get better, help you learn and, in all, just be a great guy.”
Jazmine Phillips, Caroll’s cousin, said he was killed just hours after his daughter Mary Jane's 1st birthday party.
“It's just truly disbelief because I was in the mindset of, ‘I saw him yesterday,’ " Phillips said. “We were all together the day before," adding that her niece's "birthday party was a Saturday and then the shooting occurred a couple of hours later going into Sunday morning."
Ryan Stewart, the man suspected of killing Caroll, was arrested three days later.
“[We are] hoping for a guilty verdict,” Phillips said. “Most definitely. It won't change anything, but it'll definitely help soften the situation. It'll provide justice.”
Caroll is remembered by his loved ones for his goofy smile and caring personality, one that's proven to have left a mark not just on his family but his community as well.
“I’m going to remember him as my friend — not just a coach — my friend, and one of the best coaches I ever had,” Isaac said.
Stewart pleaded not guilty last week to several charges. including murder.