In Memory of Bri Matthews

In Fond Memory of Bri Matthews

Nadia Brianne Matthews died Thursday night – a softball super star, an engaging personality, a friend to all who met her, a fine young lady with an unlimited future – remembered well in all these aspects by the many who mourned her passing.

Softball is played by thousands of girls, but at the highest level of performance, the softball world is a relatively small community, never more so than In Orange County where Bri starred for Mater Dei and the Orange County Batbusters.

Friends of Bri and friends of softball  exchanged telephone calls and emails throughout Friday, and it is a testament to the regard in which Bri was held that the focus was on her accomplishments and personality, but mostly on her unfulfilled potential.  True, there was comment about the manner of her passing – death by suicide at age 16 is incomprehensible to young and old alike – but the essential ingredient in all conversation was of the loss we all felt, and share with her family.

There are no truly healing words to offer her family, or to each other.  I recall a headstone I saw in Ireland: Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

I remember the last game I saw Bri play at Harvard Park; I was standing with her mother and aunt; Arizona’s Mike Candrea and Teresa Wilson, who offered Bri  a scholarship, were watching from behind the backstop.  I had watched Bri excel as a pitcher earlier in the day, and now could only marvel at her skills playing 3rd base.  Later, when talking to coaches about players for the 2010 Junior National Team, the question arose: do you pitch Bri, or play her at the corner, or both?  I commented on another Orange County girl who starred in both the circle, and at 3rd, and at bat – Lisa Fernandez.

Bri had that level of talent.  Indeed, Batbuster coach Gary Haning, who knew Lisa at the same age as Bri, as well as Jennie Finch and others at that age, commented on Bri’s unfulfilled potential – Bri would have been a star – for the national team, and for Arizona – and would have joined that pantheon occupied by Fernandez, Finch and others.  I agree.

Thinking of Bri as a star, now in another firmament, I am reminded of Shakespeare’s stanza:
“And, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of Heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

I watched Bri play many games, almost always accompanied by her mother and aunt, and little sister, the kind of supportive family every coach cherishes.  Enjoyed those family conversations immensely and post game talks with Bri.  A level-headed girl who enjoyed a laugh, she reminded me that she was now 16, had her college future secure, and therefore could call me Rayburn.  I will miss Bri.

National team coach Jay Miller, for whom Bri would have played, offered this comment:

We are very saddened by the tragic loss of a bright young talent.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Bri’s family and friends and teammates.

The following article appeared in the Orange County Register:

Softball star’s suicide saddens many


2010-02-26 10:34:07

Nadia Brianne Matthews had a glowing future.

The sophomore star softball pitcher at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana had verbally committed to play for the University of Arizona, and had a sense of confidence, grace and warmth that went beyond her 16 years, friends say.

Her suicide Thursday at her Anaheim home has shocked and devastated relatives, friends and teachers and coaches who saw in her amazing talent and promise – a nice girl who could put a smile on anyone’s face.

“She was very smart and genuine,” said Bri Hopkins, a friend and fellow Mater Dei student. “Whatever she was going through, she didn’t deserve it.”

The coroner Friday afternoon ruled the manner of death suicide, “by ligature hanging.”

Relatives were gathered at the family’s apartment where Matthews was found.

“She was a beautiful daughter and I don’t just mean physically,” said her mother, Nadia Martinez. “I wouldn’t have traded her for the world.”

Martinez asked people to be sensitive: “We would really appreciate for everyone to respect our privacy and her privacy during this time.”

Shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday, Anaheim fire and police were sent to the apartment in the 2100 block of E. Almont Ave, regarding a girl not breathing, said Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez.

Paramedics administered CPR to the girl – later identified as Matthews, who went by “Bri.”

She was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where she was pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m.

Matthews was a pitcher for the Monarchs, and was considered one of the state’s top softball prospects for the class of 2012.

She was one of the most highly sought after recruits in the nation. Some considered her the best pitching prospect in Southern California.

As a freshman at Mater Dei High, she went 14-4 with a 0.98 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 107 innings. Matthews had committed to Arizona, ranked No. 2 in the nation, a couple of months ago.

Frances Clare, principal of Mater Dei High School, said in a statement that Matthews’ death has been “devastating” to the school community. Officials have called in extra counselors for students, faculty and staff members.

“May Bri rest in God’s eternal peace,” Clare said. “Please keep Bri’s family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Annica Wolfe, a senior at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, played on the Orange County Batbusters with Matthews and remembers her being “really goofy and outgoing.”

“She was really confident and funny. Every time you (spent time) around her, you just had a smile on your face,” Wolfe, 18, said.

Martinez said her daughter had a 4.0 GPA and had dreams of becoming a neonatologist.

Donations in Matthews’ memory can be made to the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Matthews is survived by her mother; father, Diondre Price, and 10-year-old sister.

“I want to thank everyone for their kindness. Their thoughts and prayers are sincerely appreciated,” Martinez said.

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