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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Phillies manager Gabe Kapler revealed Friday that one of the fans who first informed him of the Bryce Harper signing was a South Jersey native who was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Kapler said on Twitter that Matt Vecere, originally of Sea Isle City, was one of the fans relaying him news of the Harper signing during a spring training game in Clearwater, Florida last month.
“I know his name because two of his friends reached out to me. They told me how Matt shouted out to me ‘bat him third and he’ll give you 90 runs.’ They reached out because Matt was one of the 157 people killed on board Ethiopian Airlines 302,” Kapler tweeted.
Vecere, 43, was one of the 157 people killed on the flight. He was traveling to Kenya for the United Nations Environment Assembly when the plane went down.
“To honor Matt, I’m asking that you consider doing something for a cause Matt cared about. His mother described those as ‘the environment, civil rights, social and environmental justice, and advocating for those less fortunate,'” said Kapler.
Kapler continued, “Baseball brings people together, but Matt strove for bigger causes than what we do every day. As he loved the Phillies, I hope the community can return that love.”
Vecere was an avid surfer and even taught lessons at the Heritage Surf Shop in Sea Isle City, where his friends remembered him fondly as someone who wanted to change the world.
“He was probably about 10, 11 years old, there was a group of kids here that were pretty good surfers, and us having the surf shop, they all gravitated to the store and he wanted to be on the surf team,” Brian Heritage, of Heritage’s Surf Shop, said.
Vecere’s love of surfing included a love for the environment.
“Matt’s soul was a surfer’s soul,” Heritage said. “Surfers are adventuresome by nature, we’re environmentalist by nature.”
Vecere was one of eight Americans killed on the flight.