The 17-year-old stood just outside the baseball diamond, clutching in one hand a golden trophy and wooden plaque. “I thank my team, of course, couldn’t do it without my team,” he told an interviewer from a local high school baseball show in May.
He had dreams of making it to the major leagues — he had already committed to play ball at Western Carolina University, said his father, Marlon Christie. But those plans were cut short Friday when his son’s body was pulled from the Potomac River.
“He loved his sisters, loved his family,” said Marlon Christie, who founded Ground Breakers Baseball Academy, a youth team on which Ceph Christie played catcher, middle-fielder and outfielder, according to the team’s website. The teen also ran track, his father added. “He always tried to motivate and had a good word for everyone else.”
Marlon Christie said his family is still trying to understand what happened, but he believes his son was out boating Friday morning. The boat may have drifted away and Ceph tried to swim back to shore but got overtaken by the current, his father said.
Shortly after 5:30 a.m. Friday, D.C. fire authorities tweeted that they were conducting a rescue operation in Northwest Washington to look for a person “possibly missing” from a boat in the river. Authorities later wrote that witnesses had reported “seeing someone trying to swim to a loose skiff” and that the person was “not seen again.”
Around 7 a.m., the city’s fire department tweeted the incident had changed from a “rescue to a recovery operation.” D.C. police conducted a dive operation, according to a police report. Police have not released any additional details or answered questions about the incident.
Coaches and players across the world of youth baseball have taken to social media in the days since Ceph’s death to share memories and to grieve. “We mourn with those who loved him as they honor his life & memory,” MLB Develops wrote on Twitter. The Dunbar student was an alumnus of the Hank Aaron Invitational — an annual training event Major League Baseball hosts for high school players — as well as the Nationals Philanthropies Youth Baseball Academy.
We send our deepest condolences to the Christie family on the tragic loss of Ceph. We will forever be proud to call him an alumnus of the Hank Aaron Invitational & @Nationals Philanthropies Youth Baseball Academy. We mourn with those who loved him as they honor his life & memory pic.twitter.com/pWDtUmv6dp— MLBDevelops (@MLBDevelops) August 8, 2022
His teammates on the Ground Breakers described their friend as someone who constantly motivated others, often offering words of encouragement during challenging moments on the field.
“It was always nice to see him do great,” said Zinny Kemahu, 17, a recent graduate of Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Va. “But also if we weren’t doing so great, he was right there.”
Eric Cueto, 18, who met Ceph while playing Little League Baseball, said the two grew up together, sharing rooms and sometimes beds while traveling for games. “Ceph was always that kid that wanted you to be happy, no matter what you were going through, no matter what was happening in your life,” said the rising senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School.
They became like brothers, Cueto said, a relationship that inevitability came with its share of spats. But Ceph would never let a disagreement linger, and they would quickly make up.
Alex Ozuna-Nunez, 17, a rising senior at Jackson-Reed High School and another Ground Breakers player, said he and Ceph would often take long walks after games and muse about the future. After a recent competition in Georgia, the two roamed Atlanta’s Lenox Square shopping mall and fantasized about representing the District at the Minority Baseball Prospects All-American Game in October.
“That was the goal, to put on for the city,” Ozuna-Nunez said. “Ceph was the person to lift you up, make you laugh … the teammate where, off and on the field, you could just talk to him about anything.”