Reds players attend Stenson#039;s funeral

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2003

LAGRANGE, Ga. - Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin joined a crowded church at Dernell Stenson's funeral Monday, giving the Cincinnati Reds rookie one last standing ovation.

About 30 of Stenson's teammates from Cincinnati and the Arizona Fall League filled four pews at First Baptist Church.

''It's just a testament to what kind of person Dernell was,'' said Larkin, the Reds' captain.

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Stenson was found dead Wednesday in Chandler, Ariz., after a night out with friends. He was kidnapped in a robbery of his sport utility vehicle and killed while trying to escape, Arizona police said.

Reginald Riddle, 19, and David Griffith, 20, were charged Monday with first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping. Riddle was also charged with hindering prosecution and attempted hindering prosecution.

Riddle's half-brother Kevin Riddle, 43, was charged with theft, hindering prosecution and attempted hindering prosecution. Robert Maye was being held on suspicion of hindering prosecution.

''I don't know what else is in heaven, but heaven has got to have a baseball team,'' said the Rev. Marshall Stenson, Dernell Stenson's uncle. ''When you are acquainted with somebody who can bring this many people together across racial lines, I'm just proud to be a part of this family.''

Stenson said his nephew has been ''promoted to the highest of all leagues.''

Dernell Stenson's brother-in-law, Rawlin Tate, asked the overflow crowd of about 1,400 to honor the 25-year-old outfielder with a standing ovation.

Stenson was a 1996 LaGrange High School graduate who spent nearly seven years in the minors before he was called up in August. In 37 games with the Reds, he hit .247 with three home runs and 13 RBIs.

Stenson was playing for Scottsdale this fall and was third in the Arizona league with a .394 average.

''He was like a little brother to me,'' Scottsdale batting coach Garey Ingram said.

Ingram played with Stenson at Pawtucket in the Boston Red Sox organization before working again with Stenson this fall. The Red Sox drafted Stenson and Cincinnati claimed him off waivers in the spring.

LaGrange High School coach Donnie Branch called Stenson the best player to come through his program, which included Seattle outfielder Mike Cameron.

Adam Dunn of the Reds also attended the service. Larkin said after the service that Stenson made an impression in the clubhouse.

''He always seemed to have a smile on his face, even when things were not going well on the field,'' Larkin said. ''As a veteran ballplayer, that's one thing you like to see, that the young players want to be there.''