Typically, Orioles first-round draft pick Kevin Gausman tries to hide the fact that he’s from Aurora, Colo., the site of Friday’s tragic movie theater shooting.
“I say that I’m from Centennial, [Colo.], because Centennial’s a little nicer of an area,” the 21-year-old pitcher said in a phone interview Friday evening.
But after 12 people were killed at a screening for the new Batman movie about a 15-minute drive from his home, Gausman said he became a proud Auroran.
The newfound hometown pride was the result of a very stressful day in his life.
Gausman rolled out of bed and flipped on the television as he dressed for the day in Sarasota, Fla., where he’s begun working out for the Orioles after signing last week. When he heard “shooting in Colorado,” Gausman couldn’t help but feel the way he did when he was in middle school and Columbine High School — which is about 20 miles from Aurora — was terrorized.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Gausman said of the 1999 school shootings. “It’s a beautiful area. Colorado — we always say it’s God’s country, so it was a little weird to see something happen like that. I remember it like it was yesterday."
The Century 16 theater where Friday morning's shooting happened is new, but the adjacent mall is familiar to Gausman.
He frequents that mall to buy hats, and though Gausman hasn’t visited the theater, one of his friends happened to be in another screening there at the time of the shooting.
“He told me that a sheriff came into their movie and told them to leave right away,” Gausman said. “He had no idea what had happened.
“The fact that this happened is really disturbing and sad for our community.”
Gausman’s initial reaction after hearing the news was to call his mother, who he was unable to reach until late in the day. Once he did hear her voice, he said he was thankful none of his friends or family were directly involved.
“Our community is pretty close,” Gausman said. “I can’t imagine what’s going through the minds of the people in Aurora.”