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The best days of baseball were still ahead for Alec Matalin, a versatile infielder going into his junior year at Crown Point.

"He played all over, first base, third and second also," Bulldogs coach Steve Strayer said. "He probably would have been on varsity next year."

Strayer was on his way home Saturday from Indianapolis and stopped at Fair Oaks Farm, where an acquaintance asked if he heard that Matalin had died. It was at that point when Strayer saw a text from Crown Point Babe Ruth director John Pearson regarding Matalin, the first of a series of messages he received.

Reports were incomplete, but as Strayer understood, Matalin had recently returned from a vacation in Mexico and was at King's Island in Ohio on his way to a baseball tournament when he became seriously ill. He was hospitalized with an intestinal infection, which reportedly spread. He underwent surgery but died Friday.

"It really shocked me," Strayer said. "You just think about the family, how they're dealing with losing a son, a brother. It hurts me and his teammates. It has to be devastating for them."

The C.P. coach  had developed a connection with Matalin through a mutual health issue.

"His dad (Dan) had a stroke in the past year and I'd had a stroke, so I'd pull him off to the side to talk about how things were going," Strayer said. "A lot of issues I went through, his dad went through. He was an extremely nice kid. He never ever caused any issues. He would go out of his way to do things for others. He had a 3.85 GPA, so obviously he worked hard in the classroom."

Strayer said players have already brought up possible ways to honor Matalin's memory, though that will evolve over time.

"We'll discuss that, but it’s a long way before we do anything," Strayer said. "We'll be meeting at some point. Once we find out more details, we’ll discuss it from there, but we'll definitely do something for him."

Matalin played for the Crown Point baseball team that won the 2013 Cal Ripken World Series. He turned 17 on Wednesday.

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Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.