OSWEGO, Ill. (CBS) –An apparent freak accident on the baseball field has left a 12-year-old athlete dead and stunned his community of Oswego.

Eric Lederman was pronounced dead at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge at 8:04 p.m. Thursday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

A spokesman for Oswego Community Unit School District 308 said Eric was a sixth-grader at Thompson Junior High in Oswego who was playing for the Oswego Panthers U12 traveling team. The Oswego Softball and Baseball Assn. traveling team, which is not affiliated with the schools, was playing a game in Wheaton on Wednesday evening when the boy was accidentally struck in the neck with a ball and collapsed on the field, Kristine Liptrot said.

“I can’t honestly believe it. It’s sad,” classmate Eric Wilkinson tells CBS 2’s Brad Edwards.

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Eric was initially taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove and later taken by helicopter to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, where he died, Liptrot said.

“This is a tragic loss that will affect students, staff, faculty and parents throughout the school district,” she said. “Eric’s teammates go to four different schools in the district, he has a sibling at the high school, and his mother is an employee of our food service vendor.”

Counselors, social workers and nurses will be available at Thompson Junior High and throughout the district to help students or adults deal with the loss, Liptrot said.

His baseball coach, Brian Zacker, said in a statement Friday that Eric “was an inspiration to his teammates, coaches and baseball family.” He played in-house baseball for two years, followed by OBSA travel baseball for three years, wearing No. 2 and playing catcher, third base and center field.

“He played with an infectious smile and played the game with tremendous passion and heart,” Zacker said. “His trademark move was to clap his batting gloves together continuously when he got on base to distract the pitcher. We could always hear when he was on base.

“He was also the comedian of the team. Whether we lost 2-1 or 20-1, he would always say something in our post-game huddle that would make us laugh. He brought a tremendous amount of joy, passion, and love to his team, coaches, and baseball family and we will never forget him. He may have been No. 2 in the field, but he will always be No. 1 in our hearts.”

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire

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