Jesus Luzardo, a minor league pitcher for the Oakland Athletics, has started a memorial fund for the family of Chris Hixon, the athletic director who was among those killed in Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Luzardo, a 20-year-old left-hander who is considered one of the Athletics' top pitching prospects, graduated from Stoneman Douglas in 2016. In a post on his YouCaring fundraising page, he said Hixon "played a huge role in supporting my dreams of becoming a professional baseball player and his loss will be felt by everyone in the Douglas community."
Hixon was hailed as a hero for trying to help students during Wednesday's shooting at the school, in which 17 people were killed and more than a dozen wounded. Law enforcement officials have said expelled student Nikolas Cruz, 19, admitted to carrying out the killings.
A married father of two, Hixon, 49, also served as the wrestling coach at Stoneman Douglas. He previously was athletic director at South Broward High School and had served in Iraq as a U.S. naval reservist.
Luzardo, who was drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2016, was traded to the Athletics last season as part of a five-player trade that sent Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the Nats. He is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the A's system by ESPN's Keith Law.
"I'm writing this with a heavy heart as Parkland is somewhere I have been lucky enough to call home for the past 18 years of my life," Luzardo said in his post. "It is a special place where I have made friendships that will last a lifetime and I have made memories that will forever be embedded in my mind. I made relationships with people that I now consider family.
"It is so difficult to comprehend that some of these people now will not get to live on with their own families. I would not be where I am today if it were not for many of the students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, these people molded me into who I am today."