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He was always there, front row, the funny guy. Always in the middle of it, awash in Lancer blue, loyal to his friends playing other sports. Mr. Waterford High. Conversations with adults who know Colin Harrington inevitably lead to the same place.
"He just gets it," they say.
Sure does. Still, there was always the matter of everybody else. Harrington never sought to make anything about him. And it's never been about him. He's been the kid always cheering on the street corner, watching the parade go by.
Now it was different. Now it was Friday at Dodd Stadium.
Harrington was the starting pitcher for the Lancers in the league championship baseball game. Now they all came to watch him.
"I have to admit that after spending so much time rooting for everybody else," Harrington was saying later, "it's nice to get a hold of it a little. I had lot anticipation for this game."
And when it was over, the most loyal Lancer of them all was left kissing the championship plaque. Harrington retired 12 of the last 13 hitters he faced. A 7-3 victory.
"I'm glad I could make my friends happy," he said.
Happiness and Harrington don't merely ride the same alliterative boat. The kid radiates good vibes, dude. And it hasn't always been easy. Colin Harrington was nine when his older sister Kelsey - Kelsey Shannon Bartol Harrington - died.
She was 10.
She was born a healthy baby girl in 1995. At 10 months, she began to experience seizures that never stopped. The family - Diane, Tom and Colin - watched as she lost her ability to talk and spent her life in a wheelchair. The Kelsey S. Harrington Foundation began in 2006 and has provided scholarships, financial assistance, medical equipment and advocacy for children with special needs and their families.
"I think about her every day," Colin said. "It's not an easy thing to get over. But it's to the point now where I'm stronger because of it."
It's a line you hear often from people who have overcome tragic circumstances. Stronger because of it. Only Colin Harrington lives it. On and off the field. He was surely stronger Friday, when his reaction to allowing six hits and three runs in the second inning was calmer than a sunset. Panic? Nah. Over a ballgame? Please. He's seen too much.
Kelsey would be proud of little bro.
"I think the whole experience made me more social," he said. "It made me realize what the truly important things are and to focus on them."
Example: He was named the Waterford Rotary's Student of the Year. Not because he had the best grades or the most blazing fastball. But because of a deeper obligation than his own self-interests. A magnetic demeanor. There for everybody else. What we generally mean when we say "great kid."
"I love to laugh. I love to be happy. I love making all my friends laugh and being the funny guy," he said.
He's not just high school funny. He's the same around kids as he is around adults. He looks elders in the eye when speaking to them. He's respectful. Hell, while most kids his age listen to music that sounds like a jackhammer, Colin Harrington loves Springsteen.
You'll note there's no moral to this story. Nothing beyond a good thing happening to a good kid.
Harrington is off to Bentley College next year. That'll leave Diane and Tom alone. There is no explaining what befell their daughter, unless it's the countless lives her death has saved. And there's really no explaining what's become of their son, either. Colin Harrington is an original. Waterford High won't be the same place without him.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.