Andrew Range overcame a lot to keep playing baseball.
So when he died unexpectedly last December, his family decided the best way to honor his memory was to help other young athletes pursue their passions, as he had pursued his love of baseball.
"In all honesty, by doing all this it keeps Andrew's memory alive and keeps him relevant and continues to inspire," said his mother, Traci Range. "It's truly healing and beneficial for us to be able to play this forward now and just to channel Andrew's memory."
Andrew Range was born six weeks premature with a cleft lip and palate that required 14 operations before he became a teenager. By the time he got to Triad High School in Troy, a genetic joint condition caused him pain in his knees, which also had be be corrected by more surgery.
It was his years of pitching caught up with him at Truman State University, which saw him rehabilitated from shoulder and elbow procedures in time to play in the NCAA Division II World Series.
Range had earned his degree in justice systems at Truman State and was in his first year at Southern Illinois University School of Law in Carbondale when he was stricken with a sudden illness. He died at a Murphysboro hospital on Dec. 8, just two days before his 24th birthday.
Through their grief, his parents moved quickly to establish the Andrew Range Foundation. It's mission is to recognize other ball players who exhibit the "qualities and traits Andrew embodied" and reward them with scholarship money.
They hope to award a scholarship to a Triad baseball player annually. In addition, it was worked to establish $25,000 endowments at both Truman State University and SIUC, which will offer scholarships annually.
"We've really been working to pull it all together," said Bob Range. "We've had a golf tournament and a silent auction and got his corporation set up with a 501(c)(3). A lot has happened in a short time."
Those so honored on the Triad and Truman State baseball teams and the SIU School of Law will thereafter be known as "Andrew's Rangers."
The first Ranger named was Triad senior Nick Beeler, who was presented his scholarship Saturday prior to the Knights' game against Edwardsville. Like Range, Beeler does a little bit of everything for Triad.
Through Saturday, he's batting .284 with four home runs and 25 RBI. In 43 innings pitched, he's 7-4 with a team-best 1.79 ERA.
"Andrew had a a great group of friends on the team and they were tight. I don't think he'd let them down by not playing," said Triad head baseball coach Jesse Burger. "He also had a real passion for the game. To keep coming back from injury after injury, it would have been easy to just say 'enough is enough,' but he kept coming back.
"There's some distance now between Andrew's days here and the current players, but we certainly talk about him and let them know who he was."
As a senior in the spring of 2012, Range starred on the most successful team in Triad's baseball history. The Knights won a school-record 32 games and placed fourth at the IHSA 3A State Tournament.
Range hit .390, which among the starters was second on the team. He also was second on the team in doubles (12) and RBIs (38). He also pitched in 24 innings with three games on the mound.
He went onto Truman State on a baseball scholarship and was part of a team that won a school-record 35 games and advanced to the first NCAA Regional. Range graduated in 2016.
"Andrew had such a wonderful experience at Triad and Truman State," Traci Range said. "People tended to pivot around Andrew. In his special way, he would be the guy that would rally the others. He was a special guy. It executed the same when he went to Carbondale and found a new passion for the law. He liked being around people and has a special way of inspiring others."
Future foundation goals are to expand to SmileTrain and St. Louis Children's Hospital Cleft Palate Clinic and to establish a program to connect grieving parents and siblings.
To donate, send checks to The Andrew Range Foundation, 2990 Indian Meadows Lane, Edwardsville, IL, 62025. Or visit www.andrewrangefoundation.com and donate through Paypal.