Tanner Craswell and Mitch MacLean did more than stay at Kevin Kvame’s house.
They made it a home. They made it Kvame’s home, and they made it their home.
With Craswell and MacLean in his house, Kvame said things were always louder, always more lively.
“It was empty just after they left, said Kvame, the Lethbridge Bulls general manager.
The two lived with Kvame since coming to Lethbridge to play for the Prairie Baseball Academy.
“After they left, I thought, ‘Are those guys coming back, or are they gonna get worried about school again and find something else?’
“And then you start to miss them. And then you hope they come back in January, because it’s just empty without them.”
Officially, Kvame was their billet. But they took over his house, filling the empty rooms and banishing the silence as they invited friends over, joked around and made it a home.
When the two were murdered north of Claresholm early Thursday morning, the victims, along with Lethbridge’s Tabitha Stepple, of an unimaginable murder, Kvame was left homeless.
““It leaves, it leaves a huge black hole.”
Kvame said the two were a big hit with the local baseball community, making Lethbridge a second home.
“I hope so,” said Kvame, who admitted the loss has him wracked with guilt, remorse and most of all, sadness. “I know they did like it here, they had a lot of friends.”
Kvame said he offered to drive the boys to Calgary Thursday, to take them to the airport and see them off as they headed home for the holidays. They refused his offer, and the what-ifs don’t make the tragedy any easier to bear.
Like Prairie Baseball Academy head coach Todd Hubka, for whom both MacLean and Craswell played and Les McTavish of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, who coached Craswell for one year, losing a player is a nightmare.
To lose them in a senseless murder is unimaginable, and Hubka said when he talked to his team, he was thankful that Lethbridge College sent over grief counsellors.
“They’re trying to cope,” said Hubka Friday from his coaches’ office at Lloyd Nolan Yard. “We’re trying to cope. There were a lot of questions, a lot of ‘Whys’ and I don’t know. I don’t have those answers, I don’t have any answers.”
The Yard has seen championships won and it heralds its players arrival with the mantra of Pride, Dedication, Opportunity. But on Friday, heads hung low with the weight of a tragedy that makes the cinematic themes of a baseball game seem like pantomime. The few PBA players who have not already left, shuffled through the hallways with red-rimmed eyes and hang-dog expressions.
Kvame, who has spent a lot of time at Lloyd Nolan since Thursday’s news spread, remembered his trip to New York with Craswell last summer.
They hit all the ballparks, and Craswell’s love of the game shone.
“He pointed things out to me I never knew,” said Kvame, who has been before. “You could just hear it everytime we went to a park, he’d find something.”
Craswell, said Kvame, was everybody’s best friend 30 seconds after meeting them. That quick trust set him apart from MacLean, who was more guarded. Until he got comfortable.
“Once he knew you, that was it, you were his best friend,” laughed Kvame. “And he let you know it. They were a lot alike after that, once you got in there.”
As most parents do, Kvame said there were moments he clashed, often more because of what MacLean and Craswell wouldn’t do than what they did. But Craswell, the charmer, could get out of anything.
“You’d be ready to strangle him until he cracked that smile,” said Kvame. “Then, you just couldn’t stay mad. He knew it, he was always like that and you had to like him. You couldn’t be mad at him for long.”
Hubka said their similarities extended beyond the white lines and dugout of the stadiums they played in. Fierce on the field, he said that savage facade gave way when the game ended.
“They knew when the game ended,” said Hubka. “They were good dressing-room guys, definitely.”
The PBA and the Bulls are planning a ceremony of some kind to honour the two, and their families may elect to hold the funerals in Lethbridge.
Because while Charlottetown was their hometown, they had made Lethbridge a home, too.
“I think if you look at the baseball community in southern Alberta, these kids don’t come here for the glitz and glamour,” said McTavish, a former member of the PBA and Bulls. “They come because of the closeness. There’s people here that care about them.”
McTavish, who knew both players but coached Craswell in Vauxhall, told his players to hug their loved ones.
Kvame’s house will be empty when he gets there. He will have memories, moments he shared with them that no one else has. The clashes, jokes and situations that only roommates know about will need to fill the silences.
“They were respectful all the time,” said Kvame, through tears. “You had incidents, you clashed.
“It was no different than any other family.”