In the heart of Yonkers, a remarkable tradition has been in play for almost a decade—the Matthew Wallace Foundation’s Annual Softball Tournament at Coyne Park. Born out of love, friendship, and a desire to keep memories alive, this event has become a cherished gathering that transcends generations, fostering camaraderie and sportsmanship among our local community.
A Living Memorial
Matthew Wallace, born on August 6th, 1996, was a joyful young man known for his moral compass and religious dedication. Growing up with siblings Hailey and Mark, he had a happy upbringing and possessed a unique sense of humor. An accomplished student and athlete, he participated in numerous community activities, including Cub Scouts, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. At Mount Saint Michael Academy, he excelled academically, led football and lacrosse teams, and showed a passion for politics and history. Tragically, he died in a train accident on September 29th, 2013. To honor his memory, the Matthew Wallace Foundation was established, supporting community programs and educational scholarships for children and women in need.
Inspired by a Love of Softball
On Matthew’s first birthday in heaven, amidst the heart-wrenching sorrow that often accompanies such milestones, a poignant tribute emerged. Friends and loved ones gathered on the softball field in Coyne Park, a place that held a special significance for Matthew, to celebrate his life in the best way they knew how—through a game he loved.
Reflecting on those early days of the tournament, Matthew’s mother, Jeni Wallace, shared, “His friends got together and played softball in his honor. I think they picked softball because it was the one sport they all played together throughout the years. And of course, Matt thought himself to be the Derek Jeter of Yonkers!”
August 5th, 2023 marked the tournament’s 9th year. It again brought together six teams in a day filled with love, memories, and healthy competition. Joe Goff, friend of Matthew’s since the age of three, took the role of tournament organizer from its first year.
Sponsors, predominantly local business owners who knew Matthew personally, also contribute to the event’s success, ensuring that Matthew’s memory lives on. Among the sponsors are Danny Mac’s, R & R Carpets, Rambling House, Trendsetters, Woodlean Boys & Girls Club, Grainger, Delicioso Coco Helado, Heritage/Eileen’s Restaurant, and Yonkers City Council.
Leaders Celebrate Community Sportsmanship
The Matthew Wallace Foundation’s Annual Softball Tournament attracts notable figures from the community. This year included local elected officials like Mayor Mike Spano, a representative for County Legislator David Tubiolo, and City Council member John Rubbo all joining the festivities. Judge Verris Shako had the honor of throwing out the first pitch.
Led by captain Ryan Colon and proudly donning purple shirts, “Team Off,” emerged victorious this year. Through cheers of celebration, both teams and their supporters embodied the spirit of sportsmanship that defines the tournament.
As Matthew’s mother recalls, “This started out with a bunch of broken-hearted 17- and 18-year-olds trying to find a way to show their love for Matt. Now many of them are bringing their wives and children, sharing memories and love.”
Preserving Memories While Building Community
Beyond the softball games, the tournament holds another special purpose. The Foundation distributed 100 backpacks to children, an impactful gesture that demonstrates the event’s commitment to our community’s collective wellbeing.
For Matthew’s mother, the event is a testament to the power of coming together, of rallying around shared memories, and of creating an enduring legacy for someone who lives on in the hearts of many. As she describes:
I don’t think I would have mentally made it this far if not for my family and my East Yonkers and Woodlawn families. These folks banded together and refused to let my Matthew be forgotten. You have no idea how much that has carried me. Every week for 10 years someone is always sending a little memory or picture about my Matt. As long as he is remembered he will never really be gone.
For those who wish to honor Matthew’s memory and contribute to the foundation’s community efforts, visit https://www.matthewwallace.org/.
Every act of support, no matter how big or small, helps ensure that Matthew’s legacy remains an enduring source of inspiration, love, and community spirit for the people of Yonkers.