BRI MATTHEWS MEMORIAL SERVICE
Memorial service fills softball field with memories, emotions
More than 1,500 friends, teammates help honor the late Mater Dei standout, who died last week.
March 05, 2010 10:10 PM
HUNTINGTON BEACH – The softball community came out in a huge show of support for the late Mater Dei High softball star Bri Matthews on Friday afternoon at Huntington Beach Sports Complex.
Approximately 1,500 friends, family, teammates and others showed up at the softball fields where many had competed for years against each other to pay tribute to Matthews, who was found dead at her home last week. She had committed suicide.
High school players and travel ball players wore their uniforms to honor Matthews, who was the OCVarsity.com softball freshman of the year last season. A stage was set up behind second base on the main field and the outfield was filled.
Many of the players got on stage to speak about their memories of Matthews and how she touched their lives.
“It was nice to see everybody out there and how many people’s lives she touched,” Matthews’s mother, Nadia Martinez, said. “It was amazing. I’m so touched and blessed. I think a lot of the kids out there needed that. It was good for the kids to commemorate Bri.
“It’s amazing to know your kid in 16 short years could have that kind of an effect on people. It doesn’t make the loss any easier.
“I never imagined this would happen, but once it did happen I had no idea the amount of support we would get from the Mater Dei family. We went to Mater Dei because we wanted more than the average high school. The outpouring of love from the Mater Dei family has been amazing. I’m speechless. It makes the load a little bit easier.”
“I think it was an expression of love from the softball community to a player people really admired and respected,” said Bill Jackson,who coached Matthews for three years when she was a youngster on the Firecrackers travel ball team.
“Everybody knew Bri. We had her when she was 11. When she was 12 she started to become well known nationwide. She was a very well-known kid and her teammates and people she played with really respected her.
“She carried herself with class. She was heading to a national team. She was a gifted athlete who also worked very hard.”
Said El Modena High coach Steve Harrington: “This young lady has a lot of love and support. There was such a great big turnout. She touched numerous people’s lives. That was just a small snippet of how many people cared for her. I just thought it was a great outpouring of support. It was tremendous.
“It’s a tight-knit family, that Batbusters group. It’s amazing how the softball community rallies and comes together.”
Matthews had committed to attend Arizona, one of the top softball program’s in the nation, and the entire Arizona coaching staff showed up for the memorial.
“When she decided on the University of Arizona she thought she would have a family there and low and behold I guess it’s true,” Martinez said. “They said when you are a Wildcat you are our family forever.
“It’s easy to say you care for someone when dealing with a recruit, but when life hits are they still going to live up to what they said? They didn’t have to be here and they were. I’m blown away.”
Said Canyon High coach Dan Hay, who organized the event: “I thought it was a great tribute to Bri. It was quite an honor to have the softball world there. Everybody showed up in a school uniform or travel ball uniform.”
Martinez was overwhelmed by the support she received.
“I want to give a heart-felt thank you to Dan Hay,” Martinez said. “He put this memorial together from beginning to end. I did not have to lift one finger or pay one cent. … He worked with the city and put the lineup together. He did everything. It’s huge to have somebody like Dan step up. My daughter never played for him.”
Follow Carlos Arias on twitter.com/losocvarsity.com.
AN ESSAY ON LIFE
(SPY publisher Rayburn Hesse could not attend the service (recovering from illness) but prepared the following essay which was read at the service by Dan Hay.)
In writing Meditation, the author John Donne said “No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me…”
From the moment of your birth, the young people gathered here are woven into the fabric of society – and what you choose to do with the precious gift of your life affects us all. You are not alone on the island of life.
The adults here are parents and coaches – but the bond which binds us is that we are something more profound – we are shepherds. And, we are here for you.
We are given opportunities to guide you from infancy to adulthood, and hopefully we lead by example – on the ballfield and especially in life.
We are shepherds – and we have lost one of our lambs.
There is a lesson in Bri’s death for you young people. Each of you knows that suicide causes intense suffering for loved ones. But, there is another perspective, too frequently lost among today’s youth. Suicide is not a valid expression of autonomy of choice, because it ends all autonomy and choice. It represents the tyranny of one moment over every future moment of possibility.
And your future is our concern here today. Your possibilities know no bounds.
Bri will not come our way again. We cannot find our lost lamb on this or any field.
But, we can find Bri in our hearts. Focus not on what problems beset her; focus on what she manifested in her all too short life – a commitment to excellence, a passion for sports, a hunger for a quality education, and dedication to her friends and teams.
Cherish your life with every breath you take. Embrace your potential, because at your age now your potential is the element which defines you.
Bri had such awesome potential – but it has not been wasted if each of you sets her high academic and athletic standards for yourself. Mourn her passing, but be like Bri in life.
Bri gave us so much. We are fortunate she came our way. We wanted more.