LYNN — Erica Richard says that Vanessa Masucci MacCormack represented everything that made high school special.
These days, Richard is the varsity softball coach at Lynn Classical. But it’s easy to see how her days of playing softball for Colleen Newbury and St. Mary’s have rubbed off.
“Our high school softball team was a family,” said Richard, acknowledging that sounds like a cliché sometimes. “We have such great memories of going to Florida, and on other trips, and they are the memories that make high school so special.
“Vanessa was the person who made all of that fun,” said Richard, whose own Rams team the last two years has not only been successful, but very close. “When you think of Vanessa, you have stories that make you laugh.”
There is a sort of “whistle-while-you-work” vibe that permeates through high school teams. Playing sports is the ultimate shared experience. For the amount of time you’re on the field, or in the gym, or on the ice, everything you do is not only done together, but done with the rest of your teammates in mind. At least, that’s the way it should be.
But you need catalysts. Not everybody in a group dynamic is loose, accessible and fun-loving. You have to have key people who spread the type of camaraderie that enables such bonds to form.
That was Masucci.
Part of the reason for that was softball was a big part of her life.
“She loved it,” said her younger brother, Joe, himself an assistant football coach who will work on Lynn English’s Chris Carroll’s staff this season. “It was obviously a big part of her life, from the time my dad (Vinnie) coached her at Lynn Shore all the way on up.”
So when it came time to commemorate her legacy, her friends and family came up with an obvious way: Let’s have a slow-pitch softball tournament.
“I had mentioned the idea of it to my parents,” said Joe Masucci, who is tournament director, “and they were for it. They thought it was a great idea.”
Masucci recalls the year Vanessa was pregnant with her daughter (Adrianna) and itching to play.
“I was in a softball tournament in East Boston, and she was so mad, because she was pregnant and couldn’t play,” he said. “She’d have been the best player on that team.”
The tournament is scheduled for the weekend of July 20-22 at the baseball/softball complex at Breed Middle School. All three fields will be used, says assistant tournament director Jim Kefalas, whose daughter, Katie Savastano, was also a member of that St. Mary’s softball team. Kefalas and Masucci didn’t have a lot of trouble getting friends to join in. Others on the committee are Colleen (Clancy) Bransfield, Nicole Oak, Janelle (Bruno) Hegarty, Ashley Laramie, Tony Bruno, Newbury, Jim and Ryan Beliveau, and Sara (Fitzgerald) McCabe. All represent vestiges of Vanessa’s softball past, whether it’s St. Mary’s, Babe Ruth, or recreational.
Vanessa Grace Masucci MacCormack was killed last September inside her home in Revere, a horrific crime made worse by the fact that her husband, Andrew, has been charged. He will go on trial for first-degree murder later this year.
Richard points out when they were all playing softball for the Spartans, it wasn’t just the players who were close. The parents (and relatives of parents) were close too. They had cookouts and parties, traveled together, and have all kept up with each other post-graduation.
My niece, Lesley Zaya, played for St. Mary’s with Masucci, Richard and Savastano too. She was a little younger than they were, but the aforementioned three — and especially Masucci — made sure she felt included. I became friends with Vinnie and Karen Masucci, Vanessa’s parents.
After we found out what had happened last September, Lesley sent me a picture of the two of them taken at a high school game. The quality could be better. It’s kind of grainy — the type of picture you may have taken before iPhone technology made images as clear as a bell. But if you look beyond that, you see two teenage girls, Vanessa on the left and Lesley on the right, both looking like they were having the time of their lives, smiling innocently and exuberantly. Without sounding too patronizing, they looked exactly like you’d want two high school teammates to look.
Les will be coming up from Philadelphia next month to play in this tournament. Imagine that.
But then again, it speaks to those days with the Spartans, and how much they meant to everybody.
“If (this tournament) gets everybody together and we laugh, and have a good time, and recall all the fun times with Vanessa, then it’ll be a good weekend,” said Richard.