It was in the winter of 2006 that I first met Rich, right after he moved here from Texas. I was attempting to recruit Rich to join the C team I coached, the Sting, which at that time was sponsored by Manray bar. Because of his participation in multiple World Series and tournaments, Rich’s skills as a softball player were becoming known outside of his local league. His name came to my attention as someone who would fit in well and who would be a great addition to the team. And, even though Rich declined our invitation and choose to play on another team, our friendship was solidified and has endured ever since.
Player, Manager, Coach
Rich became part of the gay softball community in 1998 while living in Dallas. His softball skills were noted immediately and between 1998 and 2006 Rich represented the Dallas B division in four (4) World Series, placing fourth in the 2002 Portland Series while playing for the Dallas Bandits.
Since moving to Seattle, Rich has played in the ECSA B, C, and Master’s divisions. The Seattle teams he has been part of include the Shock, Vendetta, RVD and Fireballers in B division; the Browns in C, and most recently the Silverbacks in Masters. Since relocating to Seattle, he has represented ECSA in five (5) world series.
While his skills as a softball player are impressive and well known, they are not what moved me to nominate him to the Hall of Fame. My reasons for his endorsement are because of the positive impact and contributions he has made to the softball community. Rich is a humble man. Many do not know or realize how he has influenced the Seattle gay softball community and are unaware of his contributions as a leader, mentor and philanthropist. This nomination is intended to share the story that goes beyond his talents and years as a softball player. Because in my view, this is what sets him apart and distinguishes from other individuals.
Beginning in Dallas and throughout his softball career Rich has demonstrated leadership both on and off the field. He has served as manager, coach, assistant coach, captain or informal coach on multiple teams including the Dallas Bandits, Dallas Revolt, Seattle Shock, Seattle RVD, Seattle Boys on the Slide, and Seattle Thunder. In 2008 Rich served on the Seattle World Series Committee and was a key organizer of opening ceremonies at the Seattle Center. It was also at this World Series where he was instrumental in planning and executing the Legends exhibition game, which featured the seasoned talent of softball players who were age 50 and older. This tournament exhibition game was a precursor to what has now become the NAAAGA Masters Division. Additionally, Rich was a founding organizer and coach or manager for several newly formed teams, including the Dallas Revolt, Seattle RVD and the Fireballers.
As one who has coached Rich, he is the type of player a coach/manager wishes they had more of on their roster. He’s reliable, shows up to practices and games on time; puts the team’s interests ahead of his own; does what he is asked without complaining; cheers his teammates on; is willing to pitch in however he can; covers his costs; is willing to travel; attends team and league events; and has exceptional skills as both a fielder and hitter. It is no surprise that several teams were interested in him when he moved here from Dallas.
Softball Community Ambassador
Through his attendance at numerous out-of-state tournaments Rich has built a network of softball friends throughout the country, at all divisional levels within NAAAGA. Rich understands the importance of and value that is derived from being part of a community. He encourages and supports attendance at tournaments, league events, host bars, and fundraisers. He is known to arrive at the fields early and will remain well past his last game just to show support toward the league and other teams.
Rich will tell you that some of his fondest softball memories are those where he had the opportunity to coach and mentor new and less experienced ball players. He has participated in several Fall ball seasons and was repeatedly asked and happily served as a coach and mentor for the teams he was assigned to. He knew the importance of this role and recognized that many of these players had little or no organized sports experience. If you were on Rich’s team, you were guaranteed to have fun and walk away from the Fall ball season having made new friends, and improved softball skills. Assisting these ball players to find a welcoming team for the regular season was always a priority for him. Indeed, there is a contingent of current softball players that will note Rich’s encouragement as a contributing factor for why they decided to become part of the league. He encourages people and promotes their participation without self-interest.
Rich has personally sponsored several of the teams he has been affiliated with. He has also provided financial support to multiple players so that they could travel to out-of-state tournaments and the World Series. He knows the value of these experiences and provided funding support so that they could share these moments with their teammates. He has designed and purchased team jerseys and bar shirts and is the one who selflessly buys the hottest new bat(s) and provides it for the team to use. These financial contributions were often done anonymously, without any expectation of reimbursement or recognition. Very few know about these acts of generosity, and it is a testament of his character that he did these things without seeking acknowledgement or repayment. Knowing Rich as I do, if there’s a need, Rich will do what is within his power to see the need fulfilled, whether as a coach, manager, or sponsor. As someone who has been fortunate to be his teammate and his coach it is indeed rare to find someone who embodies such a spirit of community, camaraderie and generosity. He and his family foundation have contributed thousands of dollars to the gay community and have been long standing sponsors of the GSBA scholarship fund. These acts of selflessness are in addition to the contributions he makes to a team through is exceptional athletic abilities and skills as a softball player. Rich will say that it was his participation in sports and softball that helped form his identity and helped him get through the challenges of growing up gay. When he began to find other gay men that shared his passion for sports and athleticism, he knew he found his community. He speaks of these early experiences as formative and feels blessed that he found a place where he could be himself, form lasting friendships and do things he is passionate about. I think it’s our league, the teams he has been associated with and the individuals that Rich has unknowingly had a positive impact on that are true recipients of that blessing. It is for these reasons that I submit Rich Matheson for consideration to the ECSA Hall of Fame.