HARRISBURG, Pa. — Angel Mercado-Ocasio, 19, of Harrisburg passed away at a Cumberland County hospital Tuesday night from a traumatic head injury.
He was hospitalized on Monday after a makeshift dugout collapsed on top of him at the 7th and Radnor ball field in Harrisburg.
“Angel had the biggest heart," said Alejandro Escudero, one of Angel's close friends. "He was an innocent kid, I just wonder why it had to be him.”
Angel, his coach and a few other teammates were taking down the dugout they put up themselves before their recreation league baseball game, after the city told them they didn’t have a permit to build on the property.
“I don’t want to be a knucklehead nor does anybody," said Gerardo Diaz, Angel's coach. "When they told me to take it down, I waited, but taking it down cost my kid his life.”
Diaz, or Coach Cuba as his players call him, said the young men were fooling around while they were trying to deconstruct the dugout.
He blames himself for not paying closer attention to them.
“I tried my best to protect him," he said. "I got mad at them, I told them to stop playing around but kids will be kids. I still feel responsible.”
Mercado-Ocasio was a second baseman for his recreation team, and also played baseball at Central Penn College.
The college released the following statement on Wednesday:
"Our Central Penn College family is devastated by the loss of Angel. As friends who have become family, we are mourning the heart-wrenching loss of one of our own, a promising young athlete who senselessly lost his life while helping others enjoy the sport he loved so much.
No words can adequately express our anguish.
Our baseball team all said their good-byes to Angel yesterday and expressed their love to their brother. We will all be changed because Angel is no longer with us, but we will also be changed because he was.
It is with heavy hearts that we offer our sincere sympathy to Angel’s family, friends, teammates and coaches, who will bear the burden of his absence most acutely."
Angel was known as one of the hardest working players and while he was just under five feet tall, those who knew him tell FOX43 he had the biggest heart.
“[Angel was the] first guy to be on the field, always looked out [for others], gave people rides, he shared with everybody…that was my angel," said Coach Cuba while getting emotional.
Harrisburg’s mayor spoke about the incident on Wednesday, expressing the city’s prayers and condolences for one of its own.
“He died helping others around the sport he loved," said Mayor Williams. "It’s heart-wrenching. Angel embraced so many people and now we need to embrace his memory.”
The mayor's full statement is as follows:
“We are devastated to learn of the passing of Angel Mercado-Ocasio. Anytime someone passes, we lose a little bit of who we are. It hurts even more when it’s one of our own. Angel was our son; a proud Harrisburg Cougar, and a stand-out, promising young athlete. He died helping others around the sport he loved. It’s heart-wrenching. Angel embraced so many people and now we need to embrace his memory. We ask everyone in the community to pray for his family, his friends, and his teammates, as we get through this impossibly difficult time together. The City of Harrisburg would like to extend our sincere condolences and prayers to the family.”
Meanwhile, Escudero also wants Coach Cuba to give himself grace.
“He thinks it’s his fault, but I feel like it’s not," said Escudero. "I feel like since he built it up and the city told him to take it down, I think the city should have come and take it down.”
As of Wednesday, the city says no legal action had been taken against it.
The city does not plan to seek legal action against the players or coach, according to its Director of Communications Matt Maisel.
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