By Randy Frey
The 2009 Alexis Briski Memorial Softball Tournament was a smashing success, in large part to the numerous volunteers and generous local merchants.
As President of the Los Gatos-Saratoga Girls Softball Association, I want to thank those who donated their time and energy to help make this tournament a success. I also want to thank the neighbors near Blossom Hill School in Los Gatos and Foothill School in Saratoga for tolerating the sounds of young girls preparing to play softball at the crack of dawn.
Thanks go to Los Gatos Little League for allowing us to use their fields, to Los Gatos and Saratoga High Schools for donating the use of their softball fields, and to the Briski family for allowing us to honor their daughter with this tournament.
Thanks also go to many local merchants who donated food or merchandise for our raffle, including Los Gatos Meats; Cutting Edge Softball; John Musser and A-1 Sandwiches; JambaJuice; Green Thumb Nursery; Barbara S. Werner, McElroy Properties; JJ Magoos Pizza; Starbucks; Noah's Bagels; Time Out Clothing; Amy Bs; Studio Kicks; Romantiques; Trends Hair Salon; Judy's Buckles; L. Cali; and Sereno Group Real Estate.
Without those vendors, our league would not have been able to raise the funds needed to set up the Alexis Briski Memorial Scholarship, which beginning this spring will be awarded to graduating seniors at both Los Gatos and Saratoga High Schools.
But there is one more very special thank you, and this goes to an 11-year-old girl I have never met. Her name is Montana Sprague, and she plays for the Carmel Stingers. I will let her tell her own story through excerpts from a letter she wrote to our league.
Her letter was titled...
"I Wish I Had Known Alexis Briski."
The first time I ever heard of Alexis Briski was about a month ago. My softball team, the Carmel Stingers, was scheduled to play in a tournament in Seaside, but then we got invited to play in a different tournament that was going to be dedicated to a girl who had just died of bone cancer. When I went to bed that night, I kept asking Papa questions that he didn't know, but he said he would find out. What was the girl's name? How old was she? What position did she play? Was she in a lot of pain? Did she have any brothers or sisters?
The girl's name was Alexis, and when I saw her picture she looked familiar, but I'm not sure. She was 11 years old and she loved softball, just like me. I have a nine-year-old sister namedAnika, and so did she, but with a different spelling (Annika). Then I found out we even had the same pitching coach! I read about everything she went through and how brave she was and how she came out to pitch one more inning. When I got to the part about how she said goodbye to her family just before she died, I started to cry.
A couple of days later, I asked my coach if it would be okay if I made armbands for everyone on the team to wear, and he said it was a great idea. So I wrote to Alexis' Papa to see if it would be okay with him and also to make sure that #3 was the right uniform number. Then the next day, I asked Mama if we could make them for everyone in the tournament, but she said that might not be easy since it would be around 300 and the tournament was only a couple of weeks away and we were in the middle of moving. A couple of days later, I came up with another idea. Maybe I could find a sponsor who makes armbands or wristbands to donate them! And since the idea of the tournament was to raise money for a scholarship to honor Alexis, what if we sold each one for a dollar and added that to the scholarship? So I wrote to some companies that make them and one of them said yes!!! The only problem was whether they could make them in time, but they were going to try!
With only a week to go before the tournament, the wristbands still hadn't come in yet. There was a delay because of a big holiday in China. And then, two days before the tournament, the doorbell rang, and there was the box of wristbands! By the end of the second day we had sold 279 of the 300 bracelets, so Papa bought the last ones and gave them to the Briskifamily as a present, and we gave the scholarship money to Coach Greg (Spirakis).
There's something else that happened that's really amazing. I have a friend named AutumnAlbers, and she's like the most incredible person I know. She's more than just a friend — she's like my big sister and my hero. She's only five feet three inches tall, but to me she's ten feet tall and has a heart that's even bigger. She works with families of cancer patients and goes to other countries to do volunteer work and she loves animals and she's an Academic All-American at Stanford and she teaches me about softball and life. Anyway, when I told her about Alexis, she told her teammates about the tournament, and I couldn't believe it. The Stanford softball team came to watch and meet the players and give autographs!
This was the first tournament that our team didn't make it to the championship game. The truth is, we made a lot of errors. But it's okay. On the two-hour drive home (we stopped at In-N-Out Burger), Papa asked me if I remembered any of the scores of games we played last month or the month before, and I couldn't remember any. Then he asked me how long I thought I would remember this tournament.
He's right. I think that for the rest of my life I will remember Alexis Briski even though we never actually met. I couldn't sleep last night because I kept remembering different parts of the weekend, like seeing the poster of Alexis, then meeting the Briski family in person. I remember how Mr. and Mrs. Briski hugged me and thanked me, and how my Papa would hug me and tell me he didn't think he could be as brave as they are. I keep thinking about Annika and Matthew and Emily. And I'll never forget how all the teams were trying to beat each other, but at the same time working very hard together. The kids and the parents and the coaches were so nice to everyone. What I think I will remember most, though, is just how lucky I am.
Thank you, Montana Sprague, for putting it all into perspective.