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

By DENISSE SALAZAR, GREG HARDESTY and DOUG IRVING

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.

15 thoughts on “In Memory of Bri Matthews

  1. Ms Indiana

    It saddens me and I don’t even know her. Her story touched my heart and I live in Indiana. I pray for her family and the young people. I want them to know that god puts no more on you than you can bare. What they don’t know is sucide is not the answer and there are other ways out. I don’t think they know the result of sucide…death is the minor issue…what about their soul….May god bless the family..

  2. Sharon Mckay

    Hello Ms. Martinez, my name is Sharon Mckay and I am 46 Years Old and I have played softball for years and I am still playing. When I read this about your Daughter it touched my heart. She sound like she was a great kid and daughter and her friends loved her. My heart goes out to you and your family. Just want you to know that the memory will never leave you , and as long that you have them your daughter will always live in your heart. Do this sometimes, find you a quiet space or even go where your daughter loved to be at and you will hear her, God bless you and remember that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

  3. Tim Butler

    I first met Bri this morning, thru the kind words offered by all who really knew and loved her. What a remarkable soul. What a vibrant presence to have only been around for such a short while. My heart goes to the family, friends and team mates of Bri’s. Please hug her younger sister for me and keep her consoled because this is probably the one who is going to feel this most differently mthan anyone else. A sister whom she undoubtedly loved greatly and looked to her for strength and guidance. Mom, I know you are hurting, but please do not place any blame on yourself, you don’t deserve that. I am a white male, 62 yrs old, and I struggled myself with thoughts of suicide as a teenager. I don’t really know what got me thru it, my family never new and really had no bearing on my thoughts. It was just a burden that I carried by myself and for myself. Today I wonder why I was spared and Bri was not. She certainly would have offered the world a whole lot more than I have given it. Love to you Mom and hug your youngest very tightly today and whisper how much you love her. God bless you all. Tim

  4. steve horner

    My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. I hope people will remember Bri for the wonderful person that she was. God Bless.

  5. carol dawson

    My heart goes out to Bri’s family – what a beautiful lovely young lady. I certainly will keep Mom, Dad and Sis in my prayers – you see we do understand exactly how you feel. We lost our precious Kev at 17 years old 12 years ago to exactly the same thing – he loved baseball and was very talented. The not knowing can hurt but keep those special beautiful memories close in your heart – hugs to you.

    The Dawson Family

  6. cathy

    My heart goes out to you and the family, the teenage years are such fragile years and very hard to get through it doesn’t matter how successful a teenager seems to be there are often many inner struggles going on that can be extremely difficult to handle, at the age of 18 I attempted suicide but was not successful a few years later my younger brother successfully ended his life at the tender age of 19. There is no blame to place when someone takes there own life, but in my opinion especially in those teen years because it is so difficult to know what is going on with a teenager you can get some of it some of the time but for the most part teenagers keep there true feelings hidden. And alot of teenagers at some point in time may express wanting to end there life but that soon goes away to because things are so up and down in there fragile teenage lives. All these years later the memory of my brother still brings me more tears than smiles because I miss him so much but I seek comfort in knowing that God has a plan for this world and all the sadness it holds. You and your family are in my prayers.

  7. Darlene Henderson

    My name is Darlene Henderson of Corona Ca I am a mother of three daughters and I can not even amagine what the parents are feeling right now. My prayers are with you and your family , just trust in the lord to give you strenth.

  8. Kelly

    I came across your story this morning and I have no words to express my sorrow. They say all things happen for a reason…what that is we may not be aware of at that moment. But I came across your daughter’s story for a reason…
    I have a 13 year old daughter who is also a fastpitch pitcher. She has not achieved the level of “excellence” that Bri had, but is on her way due to the drive…. She sets out to excel at everything she does, sports, school, etc. She’s a highly intelligent child who cares more deeply than anyone I have ever known. She also has been hurting lately due to so-called friends being jealous of her accomplishments. I feel Bri’s story is a sign and I will make every attempt I can to talk to my daughter…have her read the story and go from there. Please accept my condolences and my prayers for you and your family. May God watch over you.
    KellyB

  9. Alicia

    May God be with Bri’s family. I live in upstate new york all the way across country. this tragic story has touched my heart. my sympathy goes out to Bri’s family. To Bri’s parents may God give you the strength to get thru this difficult time and to her lil sister just love like you have never loved before. I am 25 years old and I lost my cousin when he was young very goal and family orientated just as Bri was. God Bless you and your family!

  10. Erica

    I am having a hard time trying to express to you Mrs. Martinez the loss I feel with the death of your beautiful daughter. Your daughter’s story and the descriptions of who she was and how she was as a person have affected me, and have touched me deep within. I can tell that she was loved by many and especially by you. Please don’t blame yourself. It is not your fault. As teenagers many find it hard to share everything with their parents, I guess its just the nature of teenagers. Growing up my Mother availed herself to me in every way, but there were still things I didn’t talk to her about. So its not your fault. I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing. I know there is a void but you can and will make it through. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. There is a scripture in the bible at 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 that is very special to me. I wanted to share this with you so that you could know that there is comfort for you that God can supply. Also Psalms 34:18 and Psalms 55:22 can also be of encouragement. These scriptures along with prayer have helped me through when I lost someone very dear to me. Please embrace your younger daughter, hold her close because she will need you even more now. Help her to cope with the grief of losing her sister. I have prayed for you and your family and I will continue to do that in the days to come. Please read the scriptures and I hope they bring you much comfort. Always talk about Bri and remember the good times you shared. She was truly a bright light who touched many hearts and lives. I can say this because her story touched mine.

  11. Sharon Black

    Dear Mama Martinez~
    How saddened you,your family & friends must feel at this great loss, I can not imagine losing a child at this young age, and in such a surprising way.
    I know your sadness will go on for many more days, months, and years for our children are suppose to bury there parents, right? I am sure you have already thought of all Bri will miss out on, and what & how you will miss seeing her grow and develop into, as in a career, as a mother, and member of your family.
    REMEMBER you will be with her again in the next life, for you will laugh, talk and become mother/daughter/friend again and sooo remember:”Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.” Doug Ivester-RD TRY to hold on to the DREAM of being with her again, hugging her, kissing those lovely cheeks, and recalling her mortality and your family life here on earth. LIFE is ETERNAL, only TIME is known to mortal man, not God, he knows ETERNITY….and what’s down the road for each one of us, so KEEP YOUR FAITH, PRACTICE HOPE, and CHARITY to those around you and you will feel comforted and the PURE LOVE OF CHRIST in your life. OUR Prayers are with you, may your feel the comfort from the HOLY SPIRIT.~Sharon

  12. John Jenkins

    I realize that this is an absolute tragedy for this players family. However, the current outpouring of concern and memorials MIGHT send the wrong message to other players who may be considering suicide. Memorials have a tendency to Glamorize suicide. This is NOT a good message. I am sorry if I have offended anyone who knows this girl personally but it is not a good message to send.

  13. Michelle

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. I lost my 19 year old daughter last year to suicide. I would encourage you to seek counseling. God will give you the strength you never thought you had to make it through these difficult days and years ahead.

  14. Thomas

    sorry to hear about the loss,

    i am sure she is in a good place, and know that there is a huge *HUGE* world beyond what we know,

    and if we were able to see it, for ourselves, i’m sure you would see her, and know that she is still looking at you fondly

  15. Deondre Price Jr.

    Many people may or may not know who i was but i was her little brother she had. We may have had our differences in time but i always treated her like a sister. I am the son of Diondre Price and my name is Deondre also. Her and I were like brother and sister. I always came to her softball games whenever I came to visit or had to something else to support her. She was a beautiful Young Woman and I am glad and proud to call her my sister.

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