Published in the July 12, 2019 edition.
By NOAH GREIF
WAKEFIELD — As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” This attitude was a constant throughout the 2nd Annual Meghan Burnett Fly High Softball Tournament, which was held July 28-30 across Wakefield and Stoneham. The event is held for Meghan Burnett, who tragically passed away in June of 2018.
Meghan planned on attending Saint Michael’s College, located in Vermont, where she would have played softball. The tournament, created by the Meghan Burnett Foundation, has represented Meghan’s love for softball by expanding it to others who love the game.
In its second year of existence, the tournament has grown to new heights due to the efforts of the Meghan Burnett Foundation.
The tournament directors received numerous applicants to participate, with a total of 16 teams in two separate age divisions, up from six teams last year.
The tournament also has expanded into an entire weekend as opposed to one day, allowing for more competition between the top softball teams of New England. These teams now have greater opportunities to play at the highest level, while playing with the passion and team spirit Meghan had while she played softball on teams such as the Wakefield Warriors, EMass Panthers, and the NE Hurricanes, all of which were represented at the tournament.
Additional fields were used to allow for more games, as teams competed in both pool play and tournament-style over the course of the weekend. Games were played at Mapleway Field and Veterans Field in Wakefield, as well as Stoneham High School. Despite the rainy conditions, volunteers pitched together to keep the fields in playable condition.
“This tournament could not have happened without the efforts of the foundation and the volunteers. I am proud of their work and thankful,” said Bob Burnett, Meghan’s father.
Although the tournament was for charity, players and coaches didn’t hold back at all, playing with heart and fighting till the end. A coach was even thrown out of a game, a testimony to the intensity and passion surrounding the tournament.
In the U14 draw, the No. 5 seed Firecrackers defeated the No. 6 seed New England Hurricanes Red but were defeated by the No. 2 seed, the Vermont Storm White. The No. 8 seed Blue Devils beat the No. 7 seed and hometown favorite Wakefield Warriors. The Blue Devils continued their run by beating the Vermont Storm White for the upset of the tournament. The No. 3 seed Boston Batbusters defeated the No. 4 seed New Hampshire Comets Red but would lose to the No. 1 seed New England Fusion Gold. This set up a final of the Fusion Gold against the Blue Devils, where the No. 1 seed ended the Blue Devils run and took home the U14 trophy.
In the U18 bracket, the No. 5 seed New England Diamond Gems defeated the No. 6 seed New England Hurricanes MAC but were defeated by the No. 2 seed, the New England Hurricanes LIT. The No. 7 seed New England Storm beat the No. 8 seed and hometown favorite Wakefield Warriors, but the storm cleared up as they were defeated by the New England Hurricanes LIT. The No. 3 seed Rangers Elite defeated the No. 4 seed Revere Lady Pats but would lose to the No. 1 seed EMass Panthers. This set up a final of the No. 1 EMass Panthers against the No. 2 New England Hurricanes LIT, where the second No. 1 seed of the tournament took home the championship.
After seeing the tournament play out for a second time, Bob Burnett spoke to his satisfaction with the event, but possible growth of it for the future.
“I think we’re in a good place with the tournament. It’s a lot of work to put this together, so [expanding the tournament] would be difficult. One thing we have discussed is creating an 18-plus bracket.”
This third bracket would allow for more players to compete in the tournament who had a chance to play alongside Meghan, so the tournament will consider this in preparation for next year.
Also participating in the tournament were current and former members of the Wakefield Memorial High School Marching Band performing the National Anthem.
Meghan was a two-year section leader in the marching band as well as a member of the Tri-M Honors Music Society. The foundation has been able to represent both passions of Meghan with the softball tournament as well as a concert that was held on May 23, comprised of high school musicians, many of which played alongside Meghan.
“I love how we have both events for band and softball. That concert featured such talented musicians, and it was wonderful to watch because of how well it was put together,” said Bob Burnett.
One of Meghan’s favorite songs, heard on the speakers throughout the tournament, was Africa by Toto. This song was also played by a group of about twenty high school trumpet players at the Fly High Memorial Concert, and in the lyrics it reads, “I blessed the rains…”
Rain flooded the fields to end the tournament for the second straight year, and although it can be seen as disappointing, the players were reminded of what Meghan would have done.
“Many of the kids who had played with Meghan have said that it’s appropriate that it rains during her tournament because she liked to play in the rain, so it’s like a sign,” said Burnett.