Aubrey Huff II was a 30-year-old electrician at an apartment complex in nearby Abilene. He was in the main office when the recently estranged husband of the buildings' assistant manager barged in, according to Fonda Huff. The man, Travis Ray Hughes, shot his wife and then turned the gun on the female manager, who had previously denied Hughes' requests to talk to his wife on the phone.
Huff's father pushed the manager out of the line of fire, but he was shot in the side. He struggled with Hughes for the gun, but eventually was shot fatally in the head.
Hughes fled, but was quickly apprehended by police. He is serving a life sentence in Texas. There's not much more Huff knows about the incident. The family rarely speaks about it.
"[My mother] kind of buried it and never really told me much about the way my dad used to be or the way it happened," Huff said. "It seemed to be a subject she doesn't want to bring up, which I completely understand. And I don't ever want to ask about it because I don't want to bring up something that's hard for her."
Instead, Fonda Huff, who has never remarried, turned her full attention to providing normality for her kids. She did it with the constant aid of her parents, who lived nearby and babysat the children while she worked.
And she did it by steering the kids toward athletics. A former high school basketball player who once scored 51 points in a game - sheepishly, she said, it was when girls would play only half the court - Fonda Huff coached her daughter, and was always around to watch her son.
"She was working at Winn-Dixie and she would leave on her lunch break and go to our soccer games," said Angela Huff, now 27, with a 3-year-old daughter of her own. "She was at everything."
Back to school
Eventually, Fonda Huff went back to college for her teaching certificate. Now, with a master's degree, she's in her 14th year of teaching.
Before Huff's junior year in high school, his mother landed her first teaching job at a middle school 40 minutes from home. The plan was for her and Angela to commute, while Huff finished out high school in Mineral Wells. But the new district had one of the best prep baseball teams in the area, and Huff decided to transfer.
Better instruction and the daily routine of hitting 100 balls in the backyard batting cage only helped so much. At 6 feet 4, 185 pounds, Huff was better suited to be a low-level small forward than a big-time power hitter. He received a scholarship offer to play basketball at a Division II university in Kansas, but nothing significant in baseball.
So he went to Vernon Regional Junior College, a two-year school in the northern Texas panhandle. That's where everything clicked. He began lifting weights twice a day and eating nonstop at the school cafeteria, gaining 25 pounds. His home run total mushroomed from one in his senior year of high school to 17 in his first year at Vernon.
One day in 1996, Huff received a call on the dorm's communal pay phone from someone claiming to be Turtle Thomas, then a University of Miami baseball assistant. The guy said the Division I powerhouse was interested in Huff, and Huff offered a curt "yeah, OK" and told him to mail him some information - assuming it was one of his buddies at Vernon messing around.
The next day, Huff received an overnight packet from the University of Miami and its baseball program. Embarrassed, Huff called Thomas back and apologized for his attitude. Thomas laughed and set up a visit. Soon, Huff had landed that elusive Division I ride - everything he and his mother had hoped for. At least that's what they thought.
"He was a little out of his element when he got down there," said Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell, a college teammate and friend of Huff's at Miami. "A small-town Texas guy and all of a sudden you are in Miami. I think it was a little bit of a culture shock for him, and I think there were times he was unsure whether he made the right decision to come there."
Strange new world
On his first day of school, Huff got lost going to the campus, tried to ask for directions, but couldn't find anyone who spoke English. He finally arrived 30 minutes late, ran into a parking nightmare and eventually went home, skipping the day's classes.
"I had this huge '88 extended-cab Chevrolet pickup driving around in Miami," Huff said. "If you can imagine a big redneck kid driving around in a big Texas truck trying to park in a parking lot at school with [tiny] parking spaces ... I think I hit two cars trying to park that thing."
His start with Miami's baseball team was nearly as inauspicious. At practice, no one talked to him. He was lonely, homesick. So he called Mom and said, "Come get me."
Fonda Huff flew to Florida and eased her boy's pain.