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Too Young to Die: James Parker

James Parker, 12, never let disappointment ruin his fun.

James Parker never let disappointment ruin his fun. A 12-year-old boy who enjoyed baseball and the outdoors, James always looked forward to the next game or hunting trip. "If the team lost a game it would hurt him in a way, but he would always look at you and say, 'We didn't lose. We did our best,'" his mother, Dorothy Bullock, told When he had an unsuccessful turn at bat he didn't become angry or upset. Instead, he ran back to the dugout--smiling--because he knew his teammates would reassure him that his next at-bat would be successful. At one game, his coach promised to buy him a Big Mac if he got a hit. James struck out. But at the next game, he smacked a triple. "He gave it his heart and his soul," Angie Braswell, a family friend, told

James wore jersey #6; he usually played second base or right field in the recreationalpark baseball league in Tarboro, N.C. Hewas the first player to arrive for practices and games, and the last to leave. Even tonsil surgery couldn’t stop James from supporting his team. When he left the hospital after the operation, he immediately went to the field. "He could not talk, he of course could not play, but he of course was there to support the guys," Braswell said.

When he wasn't on the baseball field, James was exploring the outdoors by hunting, fishing, camping, or hiking. He loved just being outside--but when he did bring down a deer, he would excitedly ask his mother to make him deer jerky, she said. As an active member of the Tarboro Church of God, James went on camping trips with other parishioners. He started packing at least a month before each trip, and asked his mother to buy extra snacks, drinks, and supplies for other children who might not be prepared. Despite his unusual maturity, James was a regular seventh-grade kid. He liked watching Scooby Doo and reading the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, playing with his pets, and eating Totino's pepperoni pizza rolls. "If someone hurt his feelings," his mother said, "he might cry a little bit but would say, 'Words aren’t anything.' He would say, 'Mama, when you're down, just come to me and I'll lift you up.'"

James was accidentally shot and killed by his uncle during a hunting trip in Wake Forest, N.C., on Dec. 28, 2012.

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