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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette The Homestead softball team is dedicating their season to assistant coach Ann Matheis, who lost her fight to breast cancer earlier this year. They have Matheis' initials, ALM, on their batting helmets and are wearing pink laces in their spikes.

  • Matheis

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Megan Hostetler, left, and her Homestead softball teammates are dedicating their season to longtime assistant coach Ann Matheis, who died Feb. 9 at the age of 57 after a bout with breast cancer. The team is wearing Matheis’ initials on their uniforms in tribute.

Friday, April 21, 2017 1:00 am

Spartans pay tribute

Dedicating this season to late coach

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

This season, each helmet of the Homestead softball team has a sticker with “ALM.” Veteran coach Tom Clagg has 40 pairs of pink socks for an upcoming game. The schedule cards for the season are even adorned with a pink ribbon.

These tributes and the entire season for the Spartans are being dedicated to Annette Louise Matheis, a longtime assistant and former Homestead administrator who lost her battle with breast cancer in February. She was 57.

“She was a Homestead athletic fan. She was looking forward to our girls (basketball) team going down to the state championship,” Clagg said. “They did but they did without her. She didn't make it. I sat there with her husband and watched the game in Indianapolis.

“She was very much involved year-round with both programs, our program and the local Little League fast-pitch. She was in the center of fast-pitch softball for 23 years in terms of Aboite Township.

“In addition to that, she was the eighth-grade basketball coach at Summit (Middle School) for 12 years. She knew a lot of the kids that were coming up that were athletically inclined. She was a really good source of keeping me educated as to what was coming up in the local leagues and who the good athletes were.

“She was very much a people person, and she followed them even if they didn't do softball when they got to high school. Some would drop softball and go to basketball when they got to high school.”

Matheis played a huge part in getting the local feeder system in place for fast-pitch softball 23 years ago, providing an alternative to the existing slow-pitch league in Aboite Township.

“You can't go from slow-pitch to fast-pitch like you can fast-pitch to slow-pitch. I had kids trying out who didn't understand the difference between fast-pitch and slow-pitch,” Clagg said. “They'd come out and they'd never played fast-pitch. They had ugly swings and it was frustrating for them. A lot of parents were frustrated.

“(Matheis) was a mover and shaker pretty much all the way through the last few years in some fashion even when she was coaching at the high school team. She was the JV coach her first year and my assistant the next 10.”

Matheis served on the staff at Homestead in a few administrative capacities. The team rallied around Matheis throughout her fight with cancer, which was diagnosed as stage 4 in June.

In October, a group walked in her honor downtown, and in December, during a basketball doubleheader, the school raised nearly $5,000.

“She was very well-liked by everybody in the softball community,” Clagg said. “When you have a girls program, you have to have a female on staff and she solved all those problems for me, which was always good. She could be a butt-kicker when she had to but also had a soft side when it was required.

“She did a really nice job of all the games we coached together, we were of a single mind about 99 percent of the time. I assumed she was going to take over when I retired, which could be any year now, and now she's not.”

areichel@jg.net