If Chris Benz knew his mom was teaming up with the Twins, he'd be smiling.
But Janet Benz said she never expected the summer baseball tournament she started to get this big -- it was just about honoring her son.
After losing Chris to suicide in 2007, Benz wanted to spread the word about suicide prevention in a way that would reflect her son's personality. By merging that message with baseball, Benz said the tournament represents her social 17-year-old son. "Chris loved baseball and this is a way that we can bring the community around the national pastime," Benz said.
The Twins started lending their support after the first Chris Benz Memorial Baseball Tournament. This year's tournament is July 13 and 14.
In 2010, Benz and the Twins decided to create the Save A Life Initiative to provided resources to communities across the state to host their own tournaments and continue to raise awareness.
"We liked their message and we liked the vehicle they were using," said Josh Ortiz, Twin community programs manager for the Twins. "It's a great way to teach children and young adults life lessons."
While suicide is an uncomfortable topic, Benz said using sports as a platform helps. They encourage kids to think about being a good friend, teammate and family member when it comes to watching for warning signs of a mental illness. Benz said more than 800 kids have gotten the message so far. Last summer, Save A Life supported a softball clinic for girls and this summer they'll support five other events.
"It's an opportunity to really help kids think about what it means ... to be on someone's team for more than just baseball," said Lynne Osterman, a Save A Life volunteer.
Money raised at each event goes toward promoting suicide awareness in that community.
"Whether it's one person or many, saving one child's life is just an incredible thing and if we can somehow be a part of that we're doing the right thing," Benz said.
Asha Anchan • 612-673-4154