Singleton takes step toward ‘new normal’

Chris Singleton talks about playing baseball for the first time since the death of his mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. (Jeff Hartsell/Staff)

Chris Singleton was nervous as he stepped to the plate Tuesday night. The stakes weren’t high — a Dixie Majors baseball game before a small crowd at Collins Park in North Charleston.

But for Singleton, that first at-bat was an attempt at a sense of normalcy, a feeling he had not known since his life changed forever nearly two weeks ago.

Singleton’s mom, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was one of nine people killed during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17. She was a speech pathologist and girls’ track coach at Goose Creek High School, and a minister at Emanuel AME.

Coleman-Singleton also was a proud baseball mom, watching her son excel at baseball and basketball at Goose Creek before signing to play baseball at Charleston Southern.

Tuesday night, Chris Singleton returned to the game he loves for the first time since his mom died. He beat out an infield hit and came around to score a run for his North Charleston team.

“It was great, because when I play baseball, it gets my mind off things,” Singleton said. “It’s just my get-away.”

Singleton decided to play Tuesday night at the urging of family and friends. The emotions and experiences of the last two weeks included his mother’s funeral last week at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, with Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in attendance.

The next day, Singleton met with President Barack Obama at the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

“People were saying I needed to do the things I did before,” Singleton said. “It’s like a new normal, you know? And baseball is what I was doing before.”

Singleton was surprised when a blue baseball hurtled toward him on the first pitch he saw Tuesday.

“It looked kind of blue, and I was like, ‘Am I freaking out right now?’ ” he said. “But the ball was signed by all of (the other team’s) players, and that was really nice of them. As the game went on, I got back to normal. My swing wasn’t where I’d like it to be, but I felt good today.”

Singleton said he and his brother and sister are thankful for the support they’ve received. But he said he’s not had a chance to take in the enormity of what happened at Emanuel AME.

“The support has been from everywhere,” he said. “People I haven’t talked to since I was a baby, or never talked to at all, they’ve all been supportive. My family and my baseball family, I really want to thank all of them.

“I haven’t had a chance to sit down and start thinking about everything that’s happened,” he said. “But when I do, that’s when it will all sink in.”