You’re not sure how to approach Brian Fischer, so you apologize before you ask what the last three weeks of his life have been like.
“It’s certainly not a stupid question,” Fischer responds gracefully. “I don’t know. It’s been a very emotional month for me. I have my days. I’m trying to put it all in perspective. Baseball, my family, all that. It changes.”
On Tuesday, Fischer’s Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep baseball team won the Division II state championship — the school’s first baseball title — by beating Phoenix Sunnyslope 2-1.
Three weeks earlier, on April 21, Fischer’s older brother, Brad, 47, was shot and killed by a gunman in Seattle. It was a random shooting; the gunman, according to police reports, killed his girlfriend before coming upon Brad Fischer in the parking lot of the apartment complex and fatally shooting him in the head.
“Wrong place, wrong time,” Brian Fischer said. “I’m just hoping to find out why he was there. He didn’t live there. Was he meeting somebody, leaving or coming? We may never know.”
The randomness — and the uncertainty — deepens the pain. So does the fact Fischer had grown apart from his brother, who was a year older. They were close through high school but had lost that connection when Brian went off to college and then, later, moved to Arizona.
“Once I moved down here I hardly ever saw him,” Fischer said. “It’s been quite a few years. That’s probably one of the hardest things for me to get through, that I didn’t get a chance to see him before this happened.”
When tragedies intersect with sports, coaches and athletes will speak of how comforting it is to be back on the field, playing games again. If only for a few hours, the sadness gives way to routine.
For Fischer, putting on the uniform was a thankful diversion.
“I needed baseball,” he said. “It was important I had something like this to keep me moving forward.”
Fischer has been overwhelmed by the support of the Notre Dame community. Sadly, the school is used to dealing with loss. Beloved football coach Scot Bemis died of cancer in January 2012.
Fischer left for Seattle, his hometown, on Wednesday, April 24, six days before Notre Dame’s first game in the state tournament. His assistant coaches took over while he was gone — he returned on Saturday — but it was a gesture by his players that truly touched him.
While scouting a potential first-round opponent, several of the players left the game in the sixth inning in order to watch and cheer on Fischer’s 10-year-old son, Brady, as he played in a Little League game.
“That meant more than anything in the world for my wife and Brady,” Fischer said.
Fischer returned to practice on Monday, April 29. He met with his players and told them the state tournament wasn’t about him or his brother.
He appreciated their prayers and sympathy, but this was their time, their moment.
“It was just, ‘Move on,’ ” Fischer recalled. “They respect my privacy. If I need to talk, they’re ready to listen. But they know that the only thing I want them to do is win this thing.
“I knew that those guys would do what they had to do and play the game the right way. I’ve just kind of been on the outside, watching.”
Notre Dame’s season ended Tuesday, and the empty hours will be difficult for Fischer. But he will move on, just like he asked his players to do. And for one night, at least, his sorrow was replaced by joy.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s (the murder) something you read about in the newspapers or hear about on TV. You just think something like that can’t happen to you. It’s tough. It really is. But baseball keeps me going.”
Reach Bordow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow.