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01/20/11 12:01 PM EST
Wisconsin family turns to baseball amid tragedy
Kilars seeking grant to build youth facility in son Treyton's memory
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- It had already been a very long day at the Brewers' annual fan fest, and Prince Fielder had signed a few hundred autographs. But there were still fans waiting in line, so when one little boy lingered next to his favorite player and mom fiddled with the camera, an official asked the boy to please move along. That's when Fielder put a big arm around the boy's shoulder. "I'll never forget it," said Mary Kilar, the mom trying to coax the camera to cooperate. "Prince looked right at him and said, 'You stay right here, little man,' and he kind of held him there so I could take the picture." The picture came out a bit fuzzy, but 6-year-old Treyton Kilar didn't mind. Prince was his FAVORITE, and Treyton decreed that the No. 28 jersey he was wearing that day would never be washed again. Mom honored the order. Eight months later, Treyton was buried in that jersey. In early September, he was killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Today, the Brewers are putting the final organizational touches on the next installment of "Brewers On Deck," and the Kilars are trying to turn their personal tragedy into a positive for the community. They are seeking a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project to build the "Treyton Kilar Field of Dreams," a youth facility in Whitewater, Wis. They need help. Winning proposals are selected via online voting at www.refresheverything.com/treytonkilar, and only two will win at the $250,000 level. As of Thursday morning, Treyton's ballpark was in the money, but balloting continues through Jan. 31, and one vote can be cast per day via e-mail, text and Facebook. The facility would be one of the best of its kind in the state, complete with dugouts, a concession stand, seats built into a hillside and, if the funding is there, lights. Just the kind of place Treyton would have loved to play ball. "That's our bittersweet struggle -- he would have loved to be a part of this," Mary Kilar said. "He lived and breathed baseball. He watched the Brewers all the time, and when they replayed games he would be able to tell you, 'OK, this is where Corey Hart comes up and hits a double.' "Prince was his favorite. Ryan Braun -- he would call him, 'Brauny' -- was his second-favorite. When we took him to a game we knew there was no way we were leaving until the end. There were no breaks to go to the bathroom. He just loved it." Treyton was a good baseball player himself, probably good enough to play with boys two or three years older, and he dreamed of some day running the bases or taking the mound at Miller Park. He went so far as researching the First-Year Player Draft, asking Mom to explain how he could be sure to end up with the Brewers. To the other 29 franchises, he'd say thanks but no thanks. Those plans changed on Sept. 2. The Kilars were heading home from a volleyball match in East Troy, Wis., involving one of Treyton's three sisters. Treyton and two of his sisters were in a car driven by their father, Michael, when an SUV ran a stop sign and struck them. Treyton died later at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. "The next day, my wife and I were on our way back to the hospital and we both had the idea -- we need to do something in Treyton's honor," said Robert Gosh, a close family friend who is spearheading the ballpark effort. "At first, we talked about getting a small diamond built with a little monument," Gosh said. "We approached the parks department and they were on board, and it just grew and grew and grew. I don't know if we expected it to get this big. I'm blown away by the support we've gotten from all over the place, from Whitewater to the surrounding communities to the Brewers." In a way it's not surprising, because the outpouring of support in the wake of Treyton's death was immediate and overwhelming, Mary Kilar said. The Brewers sent flowers in Fielder's name after Treyton's love of baseball was mentioned in a news report. A day later came more flowers, this time personally from Fielder and his wife, Chanel. The Fielders, who have two young boys close to Treyton's age, wrote a letter to the family. Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig and his wife, Sue, were also touched by Treyton's story and sent a personal letter of condolences. Now the ballpark project itself is playing a role in the family's grieving. "We're in the midst of it, so sometimes it's hard to reflect," Mary Kilar said. "But when I think about the grieving process and where we could be -- where it's hard to get up in the morning, and hard to put one foot in front of the other -- I think this has given us a purpose. It's given us a reason to keep Treyton's memory alive." Fundraising efforts will continue even if the group does not get the money from Pepsi, Gosh said. The facility will cost about $450,000, though the number of local firms already stepping up and offering pro bono services should help beat the budget. Gosh is planning to begin grading the site when the ground thaws in spring. If the grant comes through, the project should move forward quickly. They've already raised more than $60,000. "Obviously, the $250,000 would help tremendously toward our goal," Gosh said. "To get this would be a big deal." Mary Kilar has big plans for the finished site. At the top of her list is honoring Treyton's memory and others killed by drunk drivers. "But there's more along with that," she said. "Treyton loved the game not because he was good at it -- and he was very good for his age -- but because it was a game you could share with other people. We hope the field can be representative of that. "We always said to Treyton, 'You need to dream big.' We really hope that when kids step on this field, they'll think about the dreams that they have and work hard to reach them." First, the Kilars need a few more votes. "The community should feel really good about supporting something like this," Mary Kilar said. "It was a tragedy that could have inspired a lot of hatred, and instead we're turning it into so much joy."