Catonsville college, community mourn death of lacrosse player

`P.J.' Schafer III collapsed, died during game Sunday

March 26, 2003|By Mike Klingaman and Jennifer McMenamin | Mike Klingaman and Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Men's lacrosse players at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville have been offered grief counseling and most of the team's activities this week have been canceled after the death of a star player at a game Sunday.

Paul Edward "P.J." Schafer III, a starting defenseman and team captain, collapsed during the second half of a home game against Herkimer County (N.Y.) Community College. The team trainer and paramedics attempted to revive him, but the 20-year-old was pronounced dead at St. Agnes Hospital.

"An autopsy is pending" to determine the cause of death, said J.B. Hanson, a spokesperson for the state health department. It is not known when the results will be available. School officials said Schafer had passed a routine physical last fall.

"We're devastated," said Brian R. Farrell, Catonsville athletic director. "P.J.'s quiet work ethic influenced an awful lot of people here. We're flagging [students] down in hallways and outreaching any way we can to help them cope."

Schafer was "the backbone" of his team, said lacrosse coach David Mintzer, who described the sophomore as "a disciplined, dependable kid who did everything from picking up trash on the sidelines to tutoring teammates in math."

An academic All-American, he had received an academic scholarship to Salisbury University for next year.

A 2001 graduate of Catonsville High, Schafer played lacrosse for four years there and, as a senior, was the team's Most Valuable Player and one of only four Baltimore County players named to the Maryland Senior All-Star Game.

"He was a great lacrosse player and an even better person," said coach Matt Ames, an art teacher at the school.

Schafer's younger brother, Bryan, a lacrosse midfielder at Catonsville High, planned to wear his brother's college number in his honor at last night's game against Hammond, where a pre-game moment of silence was held.

On Sunday afternoon, Schafer took himself out of the game during the first half. "He told our trainer he felt some discomfort, that he felt uneasy," Mintzer said. "At halftime, I asked how he felt, and he said, `Coach, I'm ready to go.' "

In the fourth quarter, Schafer again trotted off the field voluntarily and sat on the bench, said teammate David McLaughlin. "I knew he was complaining of chest pains during the game, but he even gave 110 percent then. The next thing you know, he's on the ground."

Officials suspended the game with Herkimer leading 23-7.

Team members met yesterday and chose not to practice until Friday. Catonsville (2-2) postponed Saturday's game at Nassau (N.Y.) Community College.

The Cardinals' next game will be at home against CCBC-Essex on April 4. Then, and for the rest of the season, the players will wear tributes to Schafer: decals on their helmets, black leg bands and a No. 6 embroidered on their jerseys.

"He was the perfect role model, for school and lacrosse," said McLaughlin, 18.

In addition to his brother, Schafer is survived by his parents, Paul and Vivian Schafer; a sister, Chelsea, and his grandmothers, Louise Schafer and Mary Van Hessen.

Viewings were to be held today from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at Witzke Funeral Home in Catonsville. A Mass of Christian burial will be held tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Ellicott City.

Memorial contributions may be made to Catonsville Community College Foundation, 800 S. Rolling Rd., Catonsville, Md. 21228.

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