I Want to Say Thank You to My Friend, Matt Pobereyko
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier shares his thoughts on the news that Sioux City Explorers right-hander Matt Pobereyko has passed away.
Matt Pobereyko, You Will Be Missed
One of the hardest parts about sports is that it is a temporary industry. Managers get fired all the time. Sioux Falls Canaries Manager Mike Meyer once told me that it is one of the few jobs where you are hired knowing you are going to get fired one day. Players get cut or traded. They retire at an age that many would consider to be the prime of their lives. We come to expect that players will move on to the next chapter of their lives and we salute them for their performance and their impact on the game.
However, sometimes life has a different pathway, one that seems grossly unfair. That is the case of Sioux City Explorers right-hander Matt Pobereyko.
It was announced on Saturday that Matt passed away. The details of his death were not announced, and it honestly does not matter.
I will say upfront that this is going to be a deeply personal post. I have covered American Association baseball for nearly a decade now. In fact, this will be my 10th season covering the league. I have been very blessed to meet some players who have impacted me in more ways than professionally. I have come to love and admire guys like Curt Smith, Nate Samson, Vinnie DeFazio, Ryan Flores, Mike Devine, Nate Gercken, Alex Boshers, and Eddie Medina, just to name a few.
They are man I have spent a lot of time getting to know over the years. A good friend of mine (Gary Wirta) once told me that when you share a burden, you cut it in half, and when you share a joy, you double it. I was blessed enough to share in the joys of my friends over the years and share in their burdens as well. Their successes brought me great joy. Their struggles brought me to my knees to pray for them.
One player who has brought me a great deal of joy in my time in the game has been Matt. He was a fantastic pitcher. His style, flair, and skill were spectacular, and I never understood how he did not get another chance back in affiliate ball. When you put Matt Pobereyko on the mound, you knew you were going to see something special each and every night.
However, as much enjoyment as I received in watching him pitch, his personality and friendship meant so much more to me. He was always ready to talk to me at any time. It didn’t matter where he was or what he was doing, Matt found a way to always make himself available to me.
One of my most favorite memories was a time that I spoke with him and Nate Gercken over the phone to talk about their upcoming season. The joy in Matt’s voice and the way that he talked about his manager and teammates was enjoyable. He may have mocked and made fun of them at times, but you could tell he loved being in the dugout with every person who put on the same uniform as him.
He had a way of helping others to see the joy in life and finding that something inside of themselves that made them push even harder.
I don’t think I ever heard a negative word out of his mouth about anybody. On the field, he wanted to beat his opponent every single night. He wanted to be the very best at what he did. Off the field, he wanted to see those same players he had struck out moments before thrive in life (as long as it wasn’t against him or his team).
I am not looking to idealize Matt or to make him out to be some saint. He had faults as we all do, but he also had such a spirit about him that captivated any dugout, locker room, or conversation he was a part of.
I know I join the entire baseball community and the family and friends of Matt Pobereyko when I say that his loss not only comes far too early in life, but is a huge loss for a world in need of people who have a positive spirit that is so infectious. Games will still be played in the American Association this season. The Sioux City Explorers and the other 11 teams in the league will honor Matt, as they should. However, I know for many, including myself, it will not be the same.
Matt Pobereyko was a great baseball player. He was even a better friend. While I mourn the loss of my friend, I will always keep in mind that I was very blessed to know him. So, thank you Matt Pobereyko.
By Robert Pannier