About 1,400 people, including several Cincinnati Reds stars, crowded into a church Monday to remember a rookie outfielder who was killed in Arizona last week.
About 30 of Dernell Stenson's teammates from Cincinnati and the Arizona Fall League filled four pews at First Baptist Church and joined the rest of the crowd in giving Stenson one last standing ovation.
"It's just a testament to what kind of person Dernell was," said Barry Larkin, the Reds' captain.
"I don't know what else is in heaven, but heaven has got to have a baseball team," the Rev. Marshall Stenson, Dernell Stenson's uncle, told the overflow crowd. "When you are acquainted with somebody who can bring this many people together across racial lines, I'm just proud to be a part of this family."
He said his nephew has been "promoted to the highest of all leagues."
Stenson, 25, was found dead Wednesday in Chandler, Ariz., after a night out with friends. He was kidnapped in a robbery of his sport utility vehicle and killed while trying to escape, police said.
Two men have been charged with murder and another has been charged with theft. A fourth suspect was in custody, but has not been charged. Court records say one of the four admitted involvement in the slaying.
Stenson was a 1996 LaGrange High School graduate who spent nearly seven years in the minors before he was called up in August. In 37 games with the Reds, he hit .247 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. He then went on to the Arizona Fall League after the major league season.
"He always seemed to have a smile on his face, even when things were not going well on the field," said Larkin, who was joined by teammates including Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn at the service. "As a veteran ballplayer, that's one thing you like to see, that the young players want to be there."
By Beth DeFalco
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