Tag Archives: Preston Hirten

Preston Hirten’s Legacy Lives On

In 2009 — just a couple of months before he died on the University of Mary Washington soccer field during pre-season training — Preston Hirten traveled to Africa. He volunteered with a great service project, Goals 4 Ghana.

Preston Hirten

Preston Hirten

For the 4th consecutive summer, Preston’s family and many friends — including former Staples teammates from his 2006 state finals team, and UMW — will gather in Westport from July 4 to 7 to honor his memory. They’ll play a 7-v-7 soccer tournament. They’ll barbecue, drink beer and tell funny stories about this remarkable young man.

This time, they’ll do something more. Weekend organizer Matt Lamb — Preston’s best friend —  invites all players, parents and spectators to bring new or used soccer balls, shoes, shin guards, socks, shorts, jerseys, etc., to the 7-v-7 tourney on Saturday, July 6 (11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wakeman Field).

Donations will be split between Goals 4 Ghana and Atuabo, an African village where Taylor Parker — a college friend of Preston’s — has served with the Peace Corps for the past 2 years.

Soccer was a vital part of Preston’s life. The Preston Hirten Weekend has become a cherished Westport tradition. Thanks to Matt and Preston’s many friends, his legacy continues to help soccer players halfway around the world.

PS: After donating, stick around to watch the soccer. It’s fun — and very good!

(Questions? Interested in fielding a team at the tournament? Contact matthew.c.lamb@gmail.com)

Staples, Mary Washington and other players relax after the 2012 tournament.

Staples, Mary Washington and other players relax after the 2012 tournament.

2 Athletes, 3 Benches, Unlimited Love

Preston Hirten died 3 years ago, on a place he loved: the soccer field. The former Staples star was just starting his junior year at the University of Mary Washington, when a previously unknown heart ailment ended his all-too-short life.

The college players came by bus from Virginia for Preston’s service. His 2006 Staples teammates, and the 2009 Mary Washington team, grieved together.

The following summer — to honor Preston’s memory, and reunite in a less awful time — the ’06 Wreckers invited the UMW players back to Westport. There were cookouts, a mini-soccer tournament, and plenty of stories. It was a tough time for the Hirten family, but they were heartened by so much support.

Last weekend marked the 3rd annual Preston Hirten event. The soccer tournament grew to over 100 players on 13 teams, including former opponents of Preston’s, and 2 girls squads. Preston’s young cousins “played for Preston,” too.

Just a few of the many Staples and Mary Washington players who “played for Preston” on Saturday.

As they move on with their lives, Preston’s high school and college friends — from as far away as California — took time to honor and remember him. A special Westport tradition has been born.

Before the tournament, Preston’s family unveiled two benches they donated to Wakeman Park. Each bears a different inscription. Taken together, they proclaim the measure of a talented, passionate,  and very compassionate, young man.

But those were not the only benches dedicated this weekend.

On Sunday evening at Long Lots School, Kuti Zeevi’s teammates and many friends did something similar — without knowing about the other unveiling.

Kuti — the popular jeweler killed last December during a robbery — was several decades older than Preston. But he too loved soccer, and played for over 20 years with a Westport men’s team called the Late Knights.

Theirs was a more casual, pick-up style of soccer than Preston’s, but they too developed a feeling of family. (They took a couple of memorable overseas trips, too.)

Preston Hirten and Kuti Zeevi did not know each other. But the 2 Westporters were united by a love of their sport, and the love of their teammates.

Now — with the dedication of benches, on two of their favorite fields — both will be remembered forever.

A Community Comes Together

Preston Hirten

Preston Hirten

The circumstances were tragic.  But the response of the Westport community was loving, gratifying — and overwhelming.

Preston Hirten’s death at age 20 Tuesday afternoon is incomprehensible.  Yet it brought out the best in Westport.

Some people here knew Preston well.  Others only admired him from the top of the Staples soccer field, or knew his mother or sisters, or his father from the Country Liquor Store he owned.

But quietly and expertly, all came together to help the family — and each other — cope with an unfathomable loss.

Some organized a magnificent ceremony Friday evening at the Staples field.  Small but significant details — lighting candles in the shape of Preston’s soccer number 15, so that as darkness fell at the end, everyone gazed upon the beautiful, riveting scene — made a tearful occasion truly wondrous.

Other people did whatever they could.  They provided water for Saturday’s moving (but very hot) service at the Unitarian Church.  They donated mattresses so Preston’s 25 University of Mary Washington teammates could sleep together in 1 house here Friday night — and a pool for them to cool off in before Saturday’s memorial.

Some picked people up at airports, or drove relatives around.  Others simply provided a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, an ear to listen.

This is not the 1st time such a tragedy has rocked Westport, and it won’t be the last.  It is simply the freshest and most raw.

As a soccer player Preston drew his team together, helping his boys form a tight, immutable bond.  In death, he drew his town together.  This week, we all proudly played on Preston’s team.

Memorial Service For Preston Hirten Set For Saturday, 2 p.m.

A memorial service for Preston Hirten, the former Staples soccer player who died Tuesday, will be held this Saturday, August 22, at the Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road, Westport.  The service begins at 2 p.m.  The Hirten family encourages attendees to dress casually — “soccer shirts for players is great,” they say.  The building is not air-conditioned, so feel free to bring fans and water too.

The family also notes that, in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Preston Hirten Memorial Scholarship, being organized by the Westport Soccer Association.  The address is:  PO Box 2561, Westport, CT 06880.

Staples Soccer Community And Westport Mourn Death Of College Player

Preston HirtenThe Staples soccer community was stunned by this afternoon’s death of Preston Hirten.

The hard-working, ultra-competitive midfielder — one of the sparkplugs of Staples’ 2006 FCIAC championship, state finalist team — collapsed during a training session at the University of Mary Washington.  CPR was immediately administered, but efforts to revive him failed.  Further details were not available this evening.

Preston was a special player, on a special team.  I know, because for 2 years I was his coach.

Preston epitomized Staples soccer.  He was not the biggest player on the field — but he did not have to be.  He had speed, skill and talent — lots of all 3.

Above all, though, he had determination.  Preston loved playing soccer, and he loved playing it with his friends.  Whether it was 3-v-3 training, a championship match or — most recently — our summer “Watermelon Cup” league, Preston never gave less than his best.  In doing so, he lifted the quality of play of everyone around him.  You could not give less than your best with Preston around.  And in the process, you had plenty of fun.

The 2006 Staples team is legendary for many reasons.  Their road to the state finals included 2 incredible penalty kick games — each of which went to more than 8 shots each.  The final was equally memorable:  a golden-goal 2-1 loss.

But the team endured much more off the field.  Several fathers died during and immediately following the season.

What happened that year could have diverted them, or caused them to lose focus.  Instead tragedy united them, made them stronger. They set a standard of soccer, competitiveness, camaraderie and humanity that is their legacy.

Today’s news is the cruelest blow of all — and the most difficult test for them.  But I know the soccer community will rally around them — and around Preston’s parents and his sisters — now, and in the days, weeks and months to come.

The 2006 Staples soccer team has been unfathomably diminished.  But they still have each other.  And — thanks to the bonds that Preston Hirten helped forge — they always will.