Phillies fans were the first to inform manager Gabe Kapler that his team had reached an agreement with prized free agent Bryce Harper last month. Now Kapler is asking the team's fan base to pay tribute to one of those fans.
Matt Vecere, who was sitting behind the dugout watching a spring training game that afternoon in Clearwater, Florida, was one of eight Americans killed when an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed minutes after takeoff Sunday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. All 157 aboard were killed.
Kapler tweeted Friday that two of Vecere's friends contacted him with the news of Vecere's death and told him that Vecere was traveling to Kenya for the United Nations Environment Assembly.
"Matt was passionate about getting air and water filters to underprivileged communities and had a particular love for Haiti after doing work there over many years," Kapler wrote.
Now living in Long Beach, California, Vecere, 43, was born and raised in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, according to Philadelphia's WPVI-TV.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Vecere went to Haiti often to distribute water and air filters and to help residents recover from the 2010 earthquake. The Time said he also flew to Northern California to help those relocated to shelters by the Camp Fire that destroyed numerous homes.
He also traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border hoping to help migrants, the Times reported.
Learning of Vecere's service to others is why Kapler wants Phillies fans to follow suit.
"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."
"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."
Phils' Kapler asks fans to honor plane crash victim
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