Edward J. Cieslikowski Jr. left more than a long baseball legacy at Riverside High School. The 2005 graduate, killed in a car accident on Thursday, was also being remembered on Friday for his character and leadership.
Cieslikowski, 19, was killed near the intersection of Niagara and Vulcan Streets in Riverside.
A passenger in the car, Adam Schmidt, 21, received stitches to his face and was released from the Erie County Medical Center after an overnight stay. The two were heading home from a Mighty Taco Restaurant around 1:30 a.m., and were two blocks from where Cieslikowski lived.
Second baseman Michael Martin was among the students who received word of Cieslikowski's death when Riverside principal Michael Mogavero announced it over the school's PA system.
Martin played three seasons with Cieslikowski. He said the only thing nasty about him were his pitches.
"He was nice to everybody and made a lot of friends," said Martin. "I was sad. I wanted to cry. It was like, I've known him forever. It just hurts. We used to play baseball in the school yard next to my house with my brother Chris and his friend Matt. He played around sometimes but (in baseball) he was mainly serious. He wanted to win."
A candlelight vigil was held on Friday night in Cieslikowski's memory at the site of the accident. A makeshift memorial near the curb included long-stemmed flowers, mums, stuffed animals and an orange construction cone with handwritten messages taped to it. A shattered piece of glass resembling the windshield lay on the ground near the memorial.
One message read: "Things happen so quick. I wish there was something I could have done to stop this accident. Only the good die young. I'm going to miss you, man." -- Shane
His aunt Cheryl offered: "E.J. You will always be in our hearts. We love you."
Cieslikowski dominated the Cornell Cup on the mound, fashioning a four-year pitching record of 20-2. He played on teams that were a combined 42-3 and led the Frontiers to three league titles in four years.
Cieslikowski was planning to attend Erie Community College in the spring of 2006 and continue his baseball career.
Riverside coach Ron Killinger said he was devastated by the news.
"E.J. had a great attitude," said Killinger. "Sometimes the support in the field . . . there would be errors made behind him, and he'd never come back in the dugout and have a negative comment about one of his teammates. He'd say, 'they're doing the best they can.' He wasn't just a great baseball player, he was a great person."
Cieslikowski was the Cornell Cup's Player of the Year his junior and senior years and was named All-High four times. Last spring he batted over .700, earning All-Western New York honorable mention honors for the second year in a row.
"He was a leader by example," said Killinger. "Some kids lead by their mouths, he just led because he went out and did it."
This spring the Frontiers plan to wear a patch on their baseball jerseys with Cieslikowski's No. 7 on the left sleeve, and the words, "Remember E.J. Cieslikowski," on the right.
Cieslikowski had a 10-week-old son, Riley. He is survived by his father Edward Cieslikowski, his mother Shirley Morano, a sister Jennifer and his grandparents, Jean Cieslikowski and Delight and Joseph Morano.
A funeral mass will be Monday at 9:30 a.m. at Annunciation Church on Lafayette and Grant Streets in Buffalo.