Tribute to Mike Darr

All of us at Cal-Hi Sports and Student Sports Inc. were saddened by the news that San Diego Padres outfielder Mike Darr was killed in a single-car automobile accident early Friday morning on State Route 101 outside Phoenix, Arizona.

Darr, 25, was a Corona High graduate, and was known during his high school years as one of the top all-around athletes in the state. In addition to baseball, Darr was Corona's quarterback in football and was good enough to earn all-state honorable mention honors. Darr's top receiver was Darrin Chiaverini, who is now in the NFL.

In fact, for the 1993-94 school year, Darr was considered among the top five multi-sport athletes in California. The only others mentioned alongside him were Tony Gonzalez of Huntington Beach, McKay Christensen from Clovis West of Fresno, Keith Smith of Newbury Park and Pat Johnson of Redlands.

Darr was an easy choice to be named all-state in baseball for the 1994 season. He was the Riverside County Player of the Year as a senior, hitting .512 with 12 home runs and 57 runs batted in.

Darr opened the 2001 season as the Padres starting centerfielder, playing in 69 games, and batting .276. He was set to report to spring training the morning after he was killed. Also killed in the rollover crash was Duane Johnson, 23, a close friend of Darr's for many years. Another passenger in the car (Darr was driving), Ben Howard, 23, a minor league pitcher, was not hospitalized. Howard was the only one of the three who was wearing a seatbelt.

According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the home paper for Corona High, Darr worked out with players at Norco High last Tuesday prior to leaving for Arizona. Darr's younger brother, Ryan, 23, is helping coach this year's baseball team at Norco.

"The players really enjoyed it," Norco baseball coach Gary Parcell told the Press-Enterprise. "He was very helpful to all the players."

Said Lyle Wilkerson, Darr's baseball coach at Corona High: "I'm still in a state of shock. I'm not thinking straight. I was really looking forward to seeing what he was going to do this year."

Darr is survived by his wife, Natalie, and sons Mike Jr., 7, and Matthew, 2.

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