Chris Singleton's past couple of years have been tragic and triumphant. Two years ago, his mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was one of the victims of the Charleston shooting, a mass shooting that took the lives of nine churchgoers in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. And this spring, before his junior season began at Charleston Southern University, his father died after a decades-long battle with alcoholism. But Singleton has endured each loss with a strength that defies his 20 years.
A year ago, leading up to the first anniversary of his mother's death, I spent a week with Singleton in Charleston for Sports Illustrated. Last week the Chicago Cubs selected him in the 19th round of the MLB draft, and on Tuesday night he signed with the team. I caught up with Singleton by phone as he was lifting weights at a hotel in Mesa, Arizona, preparing for his debut with the Arizona League Cubs.
Bleacher Report: What were your feelings heading into the week of the draft?
Chris Singleton: I had some hope that I would be drafted. I wasn't too nervous. I knew either way that I'd be OK.
B/R: Where were you when you got the call from the Cubs, and who called you?
CS: I was actually cleaning a pool. Me and my high school teammate Kyle own a pool cleaning business in Charleston. I was outside cleaning when the [Cubs] scout Tom Clark called me. I was very, very happy. I knew only one person from my high school had been drafted, so that was special. It was just a whirlwind of emotions.
I did finish cleaning the pool, though. [Laughs.]
B/R: What was the next step?
CS: I flew out here to Arizona. I have been out here for three days doing physicals and drug tests and blood work. After I was approved, that's when I finally signed last night. I'm starting in Arizona with the rookie team and will see what happens now.
B/R: When did the reality that you were a pro baseball player set in?
CS: Actually, I was turning down interviews all last week because I didn't want to jinx anything because that would have been awful. I was obviously really happy to have been able to sign. The Cubs have treated me very fairly so far. With the whole draft process and talking to me and offering me a signing bonus, they've been really good to me.
B/R: It's pretty nice to be drafted by the World Series champions, I'd imagine.
CS: I went to Chicago for their predraft workout, so I thought there was a chance. It was a great feeling still. When you enter the draft, you're hoping for any team to pick you. When you get drafted by the team that just won it all, there's no better feeling.
B/R: You were drafted right around the second anniversary of your mother's death. Was that timing significant for you in any way?
CS: Around the anniversary, my great-grandmother went to all the memorials on behalf of our family. Instead of doing that, I honestly just hung out with my brother [Caleb], my sister [Camryn], my aunt [Lisa] and my girlfriend [Mariana]. We were at a Dave & Busters kind of place in Atlanta, Georgia. There were a lot of smiles that day, honestly.
B/R: Dylann Roof was sentenced to death at the beginning of this year. You were one of the first of the victims' families to offer forgiveness for him. What was your reaction to the sentencing?
CS: I can't speak for all my family members, but I knew that no matter what happened, things were going the way things should go. I wasn't hoping for a verdict either way. I went to a couple of the trial dates with my brother and sister and aunt, but I didn't like the feel of it. I stayed home for most of the trial.
B/R: How would your mother have reacted to your being drafted?
CS: She'd still be hollering and screaming right now. I was talking to my aunt last night and wishing that my mom would be here in Arizona with me, because that'd be a picture that I'd have for the rest of my life. I was thinking about that last night. She would have been screaming her head off in the first row of all my games.
B/R: What was her reaction when you signed your letter of intent to play college baseball?
CS: She was the typical proud mom. She told her friends. She posted to Facebook. She was definitely proud of me. She would have been proud of me now too. My dreams are coming true. I hope I can keep progressing and keep making her proud of me.
B/R: Where are your little brother and sister now, and what was their reaction to your getting drafted?
CS: They actually live with me and my girlfriend now in Charleston. I was able to set that up with my aunt [who is the legal guardian of Camryn and Caleb]. She agreed because Camryn really wanted to finish high school at Goose Creek, where my mom taught and where I went.
They were obviously very happy for me. They're going to stay in Charleston with my girlfriend as I try to make it.
B/R: How did you and they cope with the death of your father this year?
CS: My father passed away in February right before the season started. He was struggling with alcoholism his whole life. One day he just stopped breathing. I had to go down there to the hospital, and my brother and sister came down. I was in the hospital for three days right before the season started.
It definitely hurt. It hurt a lot. I still wear his dog tags. I wear my mom's ashes and my dad's dog tags every time I take the field. That's my way of keeping him and her with me.
B/R: You told me before that you would like to be the athletic director of a high school when your baseball days are done. Is that still the plan?
CS: I definitely still want to be an athletic director at a high school. I also want to be an entrepreneur of some kind. I love that stuff. I read books and sites about business all day now. And this upcoming fall I want to start speaking as well. I've contacted some people at speaking agencies. I'd love to be an inspirational speaker. A lot of people say I'm young and it'll be tough, but I know I'm up for the challenge.