By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/22/10
The Villanova men’s lacrosse team received a jolt harder than any check one could sustain on the playing field Sunday when the Wildcats learned that former teammate Eddie DiDinato had been shot six times and was hanging on for his life.
”We all heard about it pretty much together,” said Villanova junior attackman Chris Aitken, a Haverford School graduate. “We were with a bunch of the guys at the Villanova basketball game (against Georgetown Sunday at the Wachovia Center).
“We heard he had been shot six times and we were just shocked. We didn’t know if he was alive. But word got to us that he was alive and we knew if anyone would pull through, it would be him.
“It’s pretty incredible how lucky and strong he’s been the past couple of days. It’s miraculous.”
DiDonato, 23, of Blue Bell, remains in Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in fair condition. He has made dramatic progress in his recovery, according to his best feriend, Rob Forster, who has been providing updates all week on behalf of the family to friends as well as Philylacrosse.com.
DiDonato was shot at point-blank range during an altercation Sunday morning at 2:45 a.m. in the 300 block of Market Street in front of the Fox 29 Studio. The shootings were caught on surveillance tapes and shown on TV and the incident has become a much-discussed incident on the Internet where the tapes are available to watch.
The suspect, Gerald Ung, 28, a law student at Temple University, gave himself up to police after the incident and was charged with attempted murder and other offenses. He is out on 10 percent of $200,000 bail.
Police have given no details about the incident, which remains under investigation. DiDonato took bullets in the abdomen, liver, colon, shoulders and hand. He still has five bullets in his body, but doctors are optimistic he will make a full recovery, Forster has said.
DiDonato was a four-year starter on defense for the Wildcats and graduated in May after leading his team to its first-ever berth in the NCAA Division I championships. DiDonato also was an All-American at La Salle College High in 2005, and in 2004 he helped his Explorers win the state championship.
Aitken said many members of the team went to see DiDonato on Sunday and saw the same unyielding determination he exhibited on the lacrosse field while fighting for his life.
“When we went down there Sunday and saw he was awake, it was amazing,” said Aitken. “When he sees guys who are on the team, his eyes get all big. He wants to get out of bed; he obviously doesn’t want to be in this position. But he is so excited to see everyone.
“Only Eddie could have done this (recovered so quickly)!”
Villanova, ironically, began official spring practices the day after the shootings. Wildcats coach Michael Corrado said in an e-mail interview that DiDonato was the ultimate leader.
“Eddie was not only a great player for our program, he was a great leader,” Corrado said. “He is one of only a small number of two-time captains in our program’s history. His leadership was crucial to our success last year. As a coach, when I knew the team needed a push, there was only one place to look at – that was to Eddie DiDonato.”
Corrado said DiDonato’s toughness was unquestioned.
“I have been coaching lacrosse since 1991 and Eddie is at the top of the list of the toughest I ever been around,” he said. “He has such an infectious personality, people are drawn to him. He loves life and we have seen how much he wants to live the last few days.
“Eddie is loved by everyone in the program and as we begin the season the team is inspired by his spirit, and he is in all of our prayers.”
Aitken agreed: “Eddie is an amazing leader. He had great enthusiasm and is a great player. He is one of a kind.”
Aitken said father Robert Hagan, the Villanova Chaplain, gave the team a prayer when it came Monday for its first practice.
“We had a little meeting beforehand and Father Rob Hagan gave us the same prayer he gave to Eddie,” Aitken said. “It was pretty emotional and it really motivated us to go out, knowing he’s doing better. It really helped us play as hard as he did.”