Published in the August 20, 2018 edition.
By NOAH GREIF
WAKEFIELD — On Saturday, August 11, 2018, the Fly High Softball Tournament was held in honor of Meghan Burnett by the Meghan Burnett Foundation. Meghan Burnett recently passed away at the age of 18 after complications from a surgery. Despite the rain, hundreds of people showed their support in honor of Meghan.
Meghan still continues to impact people’s lives on a daily basis, as the Fly High Softball Tournament brought teams from around the state to play the game she loved most. Burnett was a three-year starter for the Wakefield Memorial High School softball team, multiple time Middlesex League All-Star, and a 2017 Boston Herald Player to Watch. Meghan trained year-round at Planet Fastpitch and was a player on the Northeast Hurricanes tournament team in the summer.
The tournament consisted of two brackets, both U14, and U18, with games held at Veterans Field, Mapleway and Blatz Field. The U14 teams included the Wakefield Warriors, Northeast Hurricanes, MA Drifters and EMass Panthers. In the opening round, the Northeast Hurricanes defeated the Wakefield Warriors, 9-2. The MA Drifters dominated the EMass Panthers, 12-1. Both games saw a lot of energy and communication to help one another, something Meghan often exemplified.
Bob Burnett, Meghan’s father, expressed his joy of how the day had played out, and his appreciation of all the planning that had gone into the event.
“A lot of times when kids get to high school, they forget they started playing softball for fun. This is all about fun today,” said Burnett. “She [Meghan] could play in any conditions, even if the field was quicksand. The people have been great helping out, and it’s a positive distraction.”
The second round saw the Northeast Hurricanes and MA Drifters face off, and the Hurricanes would advance. In the consolation, the Wakefield Warriors, with the support of the hometown crowd, got the win over the MA Drifters.
In the U18 bracket, the Wakefield Warriors would take on a combined team of the New England Storm and the Plex Softball Club. Wakefield couldn’t get the win, but players continued to support one another with encouraging words, things that Meghan would chant loudly from the sidelines at games.
Even though the Warriors lost, the players had a great time representing Meghan’s hometown team.
“Mego was always focused on trying to help others and bring people together, and I feel like that was the point of this tournament. She would have loved to see everyone that showed up to play the game she loved. This tournament was to support the Meghan Burnett Foundation, but I feel like we used it to really try to capture how she lived,” said Kayleigh Callanan, a rising junior player for the Wakefield Warriors. “The tournament was just a symbol of Mego’s personality and how she played her hardest every time she went onto the field. She really loved softball and made everyone feel better, and this tournament helped with closure by bringing people together to play in her name,” said Callanan.
On the other side of the draw, the Northeast Hurricanes took on the EMass Panthers, and the Panthers got the better of the Hurricanes. Halfway through the game, the rain finally began, but it didn’t bother the players at all. Everyone kept their focus, but at the same time enjoyed the rain, sliding across the soaked field. After the game was stopped, a couple players took off their cleats, ran and slid head first in the pools of mud. One player even went in Lake Quannapowitt, truly showing the carefree spirit Meghan had both on and off the field.
Unfortunately, all games were canceled for the rest of the day due to the rain. However, no weather could keep the players from having fun while remembering what an amazing young woman Meghan was both on and off the field.
In addition to softball, Meghan had a love for music. To honor her, the Wakefield Warrior Marching Band kicked off the festivities by playing the National Anthem at Veterans Field at both 8 and 9:30 a.m.. Meghan was a two-year trumpet section leader in the marching band, a member of the Tri-M Honor Society, was in the wind ensemble and also played the viola.
“One of Meghan’s lasting legacies will always be her connection between sports and music. She was so talented and a leader in both band and softball and she was able to continue that through all of high school,” said Thomas Bankert, the Visual and Performing Arts Director at Wakefield Memorial High School. “In the infancy of the planning, the tournament committee contacted me about the band and softball connection and I wanted the band involved. I couldn’t have been more honored and happy to participate in this wonderful event.”
The tournament directors were David and Alissa Story. Despite the rain, the event was a huge success with nine total teams, over forty sponsors, and countless volunteers. The Story’s will look to expand the tournament while keeping the message the same.
“My favorite part of the tournament was that it poured, and it didn’t deter people coming out to support the girls as they ‘Played for Meg,’” said tournament director David Story. “She would have played in the pouring rain, so all these girls’ spirits not being ‘dampened’ despite the rain represents Meghan in that she would have made the best of the day and had fun anyhow. If there was more time, there were a number of teams wanting to show support for her, so future tournaments will be larger. There is no shortage of girls wanting to play, whether they were her teammates, people she trained with or played against; she made that impression on so many people.”
The Meghan Burnett Foundation will continue to raise awareness and encourage everyone to live life to the fullest like Meghan did. Donations and fundraising events will allow scholarships to be awarded to those who lived like Meghan and support programs that she loved. A scholarship will be awarded to a 2019 graduate from this year’s tournament as applications will be sent to the teams and volunteers.
After such a fun-filled day honoring the great spirit of Meghan Burnett, the tournament and foundation will continue the amazing work they have done, including the 2019 Fly High Softball Tournament.