Phillies Baseball

Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler watches in the bullpen at the Phillies spring training baseball facility, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler learned his team had signed free-agent slugger Bryce Harper when fans behind the Philadelphia dugout began shouting the big news as it came across their phones during a Feb. 28 spring training game in Clearwater, Florida.

Matt Vecere, who grew up in Sea Isle City, was one of those fans.

The second-year manager was saddened when he learned Friday that Vecere was among the 157 people killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 last Sunday.

“I know his name because two of his friends reached out to me,” Kapler tweeted. “They told me how Matt shouted out to me “bat him third and he’ll give you 90 runs.’”

Kapler continued his message by urging baseball fans and others to support the causes to which Vecere, who lived in Los Angeles, dedicated his life.

The Ocean City High School graduate and former Stockton University student was a lifelong surfer. He used that passion to organize a surfing contest to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“Matt was passionate about the environment, civil rights, social and environmental justice, and advocating for those less fortunate,” his mother, Donna, said in a statement. “His passion turned to direct action, rolling up his sleeves to serve causes where he could make a tangible difference. Matt will be missed by many. We are heartbroken more than words can express.”

Vecere, 43, was headed to Kenya for the United Nations Environment Assembly when his plane crashed. His trip was a part of an effort to help deliver necessary supplies to underprivileged communities.

Vecere, who worked in Haiti for many years, also was involved in Waves for Water (W4W), a nonprofit that helps provide clean water for victims of natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes.

“Baseball brings people together, but Matt strove for bigger causes than what we do every day,” Kapler tweeted. “As he loved the Phillies, I hope the community can return that love.”

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