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Natick High School hockey player dies

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  January 5, 2012 03:11 PM

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Justin Bailey

Natick High School students and administrators are mourning the death of Justin Bailey, a high school senior who died in his home last night.

According to an email sent out by Natick Superintendent Peter Sanchioni, Bailey passed away unexpectedly from natural causes.

Sanchioni wrote that Bailey was a member of the varsity hockey team, and was well-liked and respected by his classmates and teammates.

Bailey’s mother works as the Kennedy Middle School’s cafeteria manager. He has two brothers who also attend Natick public schools.

Varsity hockey coach Karl Infanger said he talked to Bailey Tuesday.

“You couldn’t ask for a nicer kid,” said Infanger. “I meet with the kids after every five games to go through what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, what to work on and that stuff. And Tuesday, I met with him – and this will resonate with me for the rest of my life – he said, ‘I know I’m not playing, I know why I’m not playing, I just want to win. I want to help out any way I can, but I just want to win.’

“And to hear that it from a senior, it puts things in perspective. You can’t say a bad thing about him. A super nice kid who was always smiling and laughing.”

Infanger said he learned of Bailey's death from the boy's father.

The coach met with his team on Thursday and will meet with them over the next few days, but Saturday’s scheduled game with Milton has been postponed. The Natick girls' squad was also supposed to play Milton, but that game has been postponed as well.

Wednesday's game against Needham was also postponed.

Infanger said there was some chatter among the players about creating a uniform patch to remember Bailey, but no decisions have been made yet.

“The kids were one big family,” the coach said. “They really pull for each other and we’ll get through this together. But that sense of invincibility that a high school kid has can come crashing down pretty quick.”

Sanchioni said guidance counselors at all Natick school buildings will be available for any students or staff members experiencing grief and sadness due to Bailey’s death.

“On behalf of all the Natick Public Schools community, our deepest sympathy during this time of great sadness goes out to Justin's friends, family and teachers. He will be greatly missed,” Sanchioni wrote.

Natick Police confirmed that they responded to a medical call last night, but could not comment further.

Cara O’Brien, spokesperson for Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone’s office, said they are not investigating the death, as it does not appear to be suspicious.

Natick Athletic Director Tim Collins said Thursday proved challenging for faculty, students, and coaches alike.

"Justin was a terrific kid, and was really loved by his classmates and teammates," Collins said. "He was someone who sort of transcended groups, and was friends with a whole variety of kids."

Both the boys and girls hockey teams spent the day together, remembering Bailey over pizza and water, Collins said.

He said the students are holding off on planning a memorial event until Bailey's parents are ready to become involved, giving them space and time to grieve for their son.

"There are plans in the works, but we're waiting for his family to really dictate when they’re ready for that and what type of memorial they want to be a part of as well," Collins said. "We will do a number of things, but haven’t put anything into motion yet."

Collins said he has no further information on the cause of Bailey's death.

Friends of Bailey started a Facebook page dedicated in his memory, and many users have changed their profile pictures to a red image with the number 17 – Bailey’s playing number in hockey – and text that reads, “#17 Justin Bailey/Forever in our hearts/Never forget.”

As of 3:15 p.m., 771 Facebook users have “liked” the page honoring Bailey.

(Globe correspondent Jason Mastrodonato contributed to this report.)
Follow us on Twitter: @natickupdate, @jaclynreiss

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