R.I.P. MATT HERSL: Birdland Suffers a Big Loss

There’s purity to the game of baseball that no other sport can match. Its history and the indelible mark it has left upon our nation’s landscape has no peer.

The legendary names, folklore, the metaphors and the history, they lure you in and take you back to a simpler place and time.

I was reminded of that on Opening Day this season.

Surrounded by many fans who heartily celebrated the beginning of a new baseball season in Baltimore, somehow in a surreal way I was able to tune out those around me for a few moments and soak in the beauty and uniqueness of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

How blessed are we to call it home?

Ah yes, a new season is upon us.

Baseball’s arrival signals the end of winter and in many ways a new start. It prepares us for the playground called summer – a time that tantalizes our senses, a time during which we seem to harvest our most unforgettable memories.

Admittedly I soured on baseball for years.

The Orioles’ losing seasons, wretched management, an inept commissioner and the impurities ushered in by the steroid era severely tainted the sport I grew up on – at least for me.

Despite my jadedness towards MLB, I somehow seemed to maintain a level of respect and admiration for the diehard fans who inexplicably were able to wear blinders that shielded their love for the game from the pollutants that tried to destroy it.

Since the time he could really understand what baseball was or is he was attached to a loser. Most kids would find other hobbies or games to pass the time. Perhaps even another team. But not Tim.

Tim goes to all Orioles games and he is one of what appears to be a growing cult of sorts at Camden Yards – ballhawks. During his 19 years on the planet Tim has snagged 18 homerun balls at OPACY and countless batting practice long flies.

Yesterday Tim lost one of his ballhawking colleagues – Matt Hersl.

In a tragically freakish accident, the 45-year-old ballhawk, community activist and extremely well-loved brother, friend and neighbor, was taken from us.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Matt but I do know his brother Stephen, a kind, giving, classic gentleman, husband and father. I feel for Stephen, his pain and sorrow and the suddenness with which death has robbed him of someone so precious.

Today as Orioles fans, we’ve all lost because it’s people like Matt who keep the fabric of O’s fandom in tact, even when frayed to its final threads.

And though Matt rarely if ever sat in his seat preferring instead to shift his position based upon where he thought a batted ball into the grandstands might fall, it is fitting that the Orioles recognize his devotion, perhaps decorating his seat in an honorable way or give him a plaque on the flag court – something to properly acknowledge his devotion to his team and to his community.

It’s fans like Matt who preserve the game, its folklore and proper place in Americana.

The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. ~ James Earl Jones (Terrence Mann) in The Field of Dreams

Matt here’s to your memory, your selflessness, your love, your ballhawking and the permanent mark you left on those fortunate enough to have known you.

May it inspire others to be like you.

Rest in peace…

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About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

15 Cheers on “R.I.P. MATT HERSL: Birdland Suffers a Big Loss

  1. Dave on said:

    Thanks Tony. I knew Matt personally. Amazing man who will be missed dearly. And the Orioles wouldn’t be able to mark his seat because he never sat down haha.

  2. Stephen Hersl on said:

    Dear Tony, My family and I are humbled by the out pouring love of Matt . He truly was a puriest of baseball and giving to others. The Orioles were truly his life as was giving Orioles baseball’s and Orioles memorabilia to youngsters and families. The Orioles and yourself have been a class act to show tribute to my brother Matt. I will always remember and love Matt for all he did as a gentle loving person. Thank You, Stephen Hersl

    • Theresa (May) McMillion on said:

      Dear Hersl Family,
      I am truly truly sorry for the tragic, unbelievable loss of your Son, Brother, Uncle and Friend. I knew Matt from the neighborhood, Little Italy and we work in the same building downtown. Matt was always on the go with a smile and so involved with his community. May he rest in peace and God be with you all during your time of sorry. I will always remember Matt’s smile and that little wave as he passed by.

      Theresa May McMillion

  3. Elaine Young on said:

    To the Hersl Family, So sadden to hear about Matt. He was a good, caring guy. Always did for people that he didnt know. My thoughts and prayers are with the whole family. My mother Agnes Young from Baltimore St., remembers him and all the brothers. Her thoughts and prayers are with u and the family.

  4. Lynn Creamer on said:

    R.I.P. Matt you will be missed at the Ball Park! Prayers go out to your family ! Maybe The Orioles win this year for you! R.I.P.

  5. Suzanna Molino Singleton on said:

    Well written. My heart is broken for the Hersl family. I know Matt from Little Italy and from the big smile he constantly wore, walking around the neighborhood, attending all of the events, eating pasta at the Friday night Little Italy Lodge dinners. He was happy to meet my husband, Ken Singleton, a few times, and seemed to be the biggest Orioles fan around, most of the time ‘in uniform.’ Rest in sweet peace, dear Matt. We shall miss your big presence in The Neighborhood. Sincere and heartfelt condolences to Matt’s brothers, sister, and mom.

  6. Justin LaRue on said:

    Matt was a kind man. Always asked if I needed tickets to take my kids to the game. Without a doubt one of the best human beings I have ever met.

  7. Dena Whitener on said:

    What a tragedy, I didn’t know Matt but he must have been an amazing man, his family and friends are in my thoughts and prayer.

  8. Sherry Westerman on said:

    To the Hersl Family, I am So sorry for your loss, I considered Matt a friend. This is what I posted to my friends on Facebook….I wanted them all to know what a wonderful person Matt was:

    My heart is heavy today for this morning I learned that my friend Matt Hersl was the city worker that was killed by an out of control vehicle in front of City Hall. I first met Matt 14 or so years ago when my girlfriend , who was dating Matt at the time, brought him to my college graduation party. He and my friend stopped dating but remained friendly and every time she and I would go downtown to a festival, concert, etc, which was often, we’d run into Matt. He’d always hug us and stop to talk for awhile. One time, we ran into him at the Italian Festival in Little Italy after he’d just purchased his home there and he took us by to show us his new digs. As life often does, changes occurred in our lives, my girlfriend got married and I bought a house in Brewer’s Hill in 2003 (ok, it’s really Highlandtown). One day, I was at the corner grocery store when i heard a familiar voice…it was Matt “Hey Stranger, what are you doing here?” he said. I told him I’d just bought a house up the street and he told me that his brother lived on the block behind mine. He invited me back to his brother’s house for dinner…I declined at the time. This is just how Matt was, he always had a big heart. From then on, I would run into him pretty regularly where ever I went around town, the grocery store (I don’t care which one, I ran into him at just about all of them), Fell’s Point Fest, St. Paddy’s Day, Federal Hill Street Beat, Mothers, the list goes on. One of the last times was at The Horse You Came In On last year on St. Paddy’s Day. My friends and I were leaving and I felt someone pull my arm into a hug…it was Matt. We laughed and joked about running into eachother yet again. I told him I couldn’t stay to catch up but that I was sure I’d run into him again sometime soon. Matt had a HUGE heart and never had a sour word for anyone. Being out and about in the city will never be the same because I know my run-ins with Matt are over. Perhaps one day I WILL run into him again…then I’ll know I must be in heaven because that’s surely where HIS soul is. Rest in Peace Matt, you will be missed!!!

  9. Connie Fuller (Sloman) on said:

    R.I.P. Our thoughts & prayers are with the Hersl family. Very sadden to hear the heartbreaking news. He surely will be missed, never forgotten.

  10. Donna DiCerbo (Kuczinski) on said:

    Ms. Dot, Jane, Chalie, Steve, Jerry, and Danny,

    Words cannot express how sorry I am to hear about Matt. I saw him a few months ago in Little Italy, and he gave me a big hug, asked how everyone was, and bolted off with that famous Hersl smile… you all have it you know. When he hugged me, I couldn’t help but remember, and for a moment feel like we were back in your house on Highland Ave… Ms. Dot carrying laundry upstairs to Jane’s blue paneled room; Mr. Jerry making snowballs; my father out in the lot playing ball and running around with all of us. I remember feeling all of those good things with his simple, honest, and genuine hug. It takes a special person to have that kind of magic. And Matt certainly had it. And just as his smile lit up this world, I’m sure it lights up heaven even more
    I love you all, then and now. If there is anything I can do, please don’t hesitate.

  11. Al Braden on said:

    I’ve known Matt and his family since we were in grade school. Matt, Steve and Danny carried the Hersl name in the neighborhood like a Ripken or Robinson. They loved sports and their Mother had a soft spoken yet stern upbringing when it came to her bots. Matt will truly be missed. Anyone that knew him would see him nearly everywhere they went. He was a young man that would walk and walk and walk everywhere. Just doesn’t seem fair why God takes the Great ones so early. I pray that Matt’s family is comforted in knowing that each and every one gas made a wonderful mark on this earth and Matt will be sorely missed. God Bless the Hersl Family. Thanks for the friendship.

  12. Dave Rode on said:

    My heart cries for the Hersl family. I am fortunate enough to have known the entire Hersl family as long as I can remember. You see, I grew up right across the street from the Hersl’s and spent many a summer day playing ball and other various games with them. I can remember, as kids, we couldn’t wait for Matt’s father, (Mr Jerry) to get home from work in the afternoon. After working all day, he would come home, round up the neighborhood kids, load them in his car, and take them to Patterson Park to play ball. A wonderfully close family, the Hersl’s. It is obvious that Matt will be severely missed by his family and friends. He leaves a legacy of love and friendship for his community, friends & family. God bless you, Matt, and the entire Hersl family.

  13. Michael Williams on said:

    Yes, I also new Matt as a child growing up in Highland town. He had a very nice family and always had a smile when ever I would see him. I am sorry for his family and all of us from Highland town and all who’ new him will miss Matt’, for just being the kind nature person that he was. Highland town was a great place to grow up and our families new one another it was like a small community where every one new one another family. I know I can say that we all will miss him and it was nice to have some one like Matt to be around. People like Matt’,made it that much better’ to grow up there.

  14. Sharon "Vikell" Nelson on said:

    Ms. Dot, Jerry, Charles, Steve, Jane and Danny,
    My heart goes out to your entire family. Your in our thoughts and prayers now and always. I can remember all the good times we had when we were young living in Highlandtown and also the good times we had when Matt would come over our house with Rodney and Ron would be grilling. He especially loved Ron’s wings. Memories last a lifetime and alot of good ones we had. Matt will truely be missed. Take care and God Bless all of you.

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