The father of 10-year-old Long Island Little League player Lazar LaPenna, who collapsed and died during a game Friday, said that the epileptic seizure that took his son’s life was caused by his excitement over scoring a hit.
“The sheer excitement of the hit that he got brought on a seizure, while he was standing on first base,” Gregg LaPenna told Newsday. “He went into a seizure with a smile on his face and he collapsed on first base and he never came out.”
Lazar died just two days after celebrating his 10th birthday. LaPenna said his son would usually pick a jersey number matching his age, but this time he decided to keep his old number, 9.
“He was really excited and looked at me and said, ‘Dad, can I stay number nine? I want to be number nine forever,’” the heartbroken dad told the newspaper Monday. “I guess he got his wish.”
LaPenna revealed that their family was supposed to mark Lazar’s birthday by cutting a cake after Friday’s game, but he said Lazar had insisted on having a piece before taking the field at Point Lookout Park in Lido, New York.
With his dad, who was his Little League coach, watching, Lazar experienced an epileptic seizure as he ran to first base.
The boy’s 12-year-old brother, Gerry, who was coaching first base during the game, told ABC 7 NY that Lazar reached out and placed his hand on his older brother’s shoulder to steady himself, but he lost his balance and fell.
Gregg LaPenna recalled that he was looking at his scorecard when he heard his older son yell that Lazar was having a seizure.
“And I look down, he’s laying down on first base,” the married dad-of-three said, describing the harrowing moment. “When I saw his face, I knew it wasn’t another normal seizure.”
Paramedics went to work performing CPR on the 10-year-old to revive him, but he could not be saved.
The fourth-grade student at East School had been diagnosed with epilepsy several years ago and had managed the condition that causes seizures with medication.
“He knew his life was limited, but he always spoke about the future,” Gregg LaPenna said. “He was a special kid.”
Lazar was passionate about New York sports, especially the Mets and Jets, and dreamed of becoming a professional football player when he grew up, even though his medical condition precluded him from participating in contact sports.
As news of Lazar’s untimely death spread, the Mets honored their young fan by leaving three bats leaning against the wall outside their clubhouse Tuesday.
“We send our love and support to his family and teammates in the Long Beach/Lido Little League,” the team wrote on social media.