May 8, 2007
Albany - One player not on the field for the South Georgia Peanuts on the first day of spring training was Fitzgerald's Chris Howell.
The former University of Tennessee pitcher was injured and his fiancee killed in a traffic accident in Jacksonville last month.
Chris is hoping the game he loves will help him deal with the loss of the person he planned to spend the rest of his life with.
It has been a long time since Chris Howell was at the Paul Eames Complex.
Chris Howell said "Watching Vlad (Vladimir Guerrero of the Los Angeles Angels), Armando Benintez,and Chad Sumner. I have been here several times and played here back in the summer days.
Chris was excited about playing baseball for the South Georgia Peanuts in Albany after he was released by the Los Angeles Angels earlier this spring.
That is until two weeks ago when Chris suffered broken ribs in a traffic accident in Florida.
An accident that also killed his girlfriend Joanna Knepper.
The two had been dating since they met at Pensacola Junior College five years ago and Chris had just received the blessing from Joanna's father to marry his daughter.
Howell said "Kind of going through that stuff and dealing with it and trying to play ball. Take one day at time."
While Chris is hoping baseball will help him cope with the death of Joanna, his broken ribs mean he will start the season on the injured list.
But when he is healthy, Wally Backman will give Chris a chance to be starting pitcher.
An opportunity he didn't get with the Angels or at Tennessee.
Howell said "Hopefully, I can come out here and pitch well enough and get picked up by another team.
No matter what team Chris is pitching for, he knows his biggest fan will always be there in spirit.
Chris Howell said "She went to every game that I played in Knoxville. Home or away. I definitely want to get back out here. I know she is watching. She will always be here with me."
Doctors have told Chris he will miss 6-12 weeks with his broken ribs.
Chris will start throwing again in two weeks and hopes to be on the mound sooner than that timetable.