The power of sports was on full display Saturday night at the annual Yucaipa High School Hall of Fame banquet.
Plenty of goals and home runs and pitches and putts were showcased. However, when the five inductees spoke about their memories of their days at Yucaipa High, stats and trophies were barely mentioned. It was all about the relationships they had forged during their athletic careers, beginning with their parents and siblings, and extending to their coaches and the community.
“I really am super proud to be from Yucaipa,” said Matt Davidson, a high school All-American who has gone on to a Major League Baseball career. “This town has really supported me so much and I really can’t thank you all enough.”
Davidson, a 2009 graduate who is now with the Texas Rangers organization, choked up as he spoke about how remembering the people in Yucaipa who support him helps him get through lonely nights on the road.
“Just coming from a town like this, even though some of you may have never heard of me or nothing, I just really look back on Yucaipa and really you guys give me so much strength those nights when I am struggling,” he said.
Athletic Director Matt Carpenter and fellow Hall of Fame committee member Eric Memory hosted the Nov. 2 event in the campus’ multi-purpose room.
“Our athletes represent Yucaipa High so well and I thank you for that,” Carpenter said during his introduction.
The 10th class in the Yucaipa High School Hall of Fame includes Davidson, golfer Brian Abbott, water polo and baseball star Kevan Kelley, soccer player Sarai Stamper and the Distinguished Service Award to Teri Boon, who served as the team doctor for the football program for 23 years. Kelley is the first water polo player inducted into the Hall of Fame and Stamper is the first girls soccer player.
Brian Abbott –
Golf and Basketball
The 1983 Yucaipa High graduate, who went on to earn All-American honors at the University of Redlands, learned how to play golf by tagging along with his older brothers Gary and Phil to Calimesa Country Club.
“We spent our summers learning to play golf,” said Gary, who along with Phil presented the Hall of Fame honor to Brian. “Our transportation to Calimesa was our bicycles. The transportation gave us the opportunity to get out of the house, play a sport we grew to love and learn to mingle with adults.”
The brothers would play 36 holes a day, walking the course, then stopping to practice putting and chipping before riding their bikes home.
“We are lucky to have the little brother that we have because we rode him hard,” Phil said, recalling fondly their childhood of sports.
Now living in Arizona, Brian spoke about coming back to Yucaipa and accepting the Hall of Fame award.
“This place, Yucaipa, really is the people,” he said, mentioning how he had seen old teammates and neighbors while in town. “It is what it is all about, people and places. Yucaipa is a place of people that I will always remember and cherish.”
He acknowledged four people who helped him achieve three individual San Andreas League titles on his way to the Hall of Fame at the University of Redlands – Art Salverson, basketball coaches David Braxton and Kent Hayden, and golf coach Scott Adams.
“He is the one coach and teacher who planted the seed in me to attend the University of Redlands,” Brian said about Adams’ encouragement. “Little did I know it would be the biggest blessing in my lifetime. I met my wife Kimberly and have the gift of a family I call my own.”
Kevan Kelley – Water Polo and Baseball
Before Kelley, a 2002 graduate, met Coach Matt Carpenter, he had never played water polo. In his first year of playing as a sophomore, he made the varsity team.
“That is pretty much unheard of,” said Carpenter, now the athletic director at YHS. “Water polo is not a natural sport.”
Kelley went on to lead the Thunderbirds to two league titles in both water polo and baseball, and received a baseball scholarship to UC Riverside before getting drafted by the Florida Marlins.
His relationship with Carpenter, however, remains today.
“What set him apart from the other athletes was a strong desire to be good and he had some natural swimming ability. He was impressive,” Carpenter said about his favorite player. “From the moment he walked on deck, you knew there was something different about him.”
“Kevan wasn’t the tallest kid or the strongest kid or the fastest swimmer, but he wanted to win more than everyone else on that team and may be more than anyone else I coached during my 20 years,” Carpenter said, continuing.
Kelley spoke about moving from San Diego to Yucaipa when he was 13. He joked that he found the situation “weird” because the communities were so different.
“It turned out to be the greatest thing ever,” Kelley said. “This community has been so supportive of me.”
He found Yucaipa High “a nurturing place where I was allowed to grow” because of its teachers and coaches, especially Carpenter.
“He taught me not only how to play water polo, and I didn’t have a clue,” Kelley said. “But he taught me how to be a man and how to treat people and how to treat myself, everything. He is truly my greatest mentor.”
He also thanked “the most important people in my life,” his mom and dad.
“They are my biggest inspiration and the true meaning of love and support,” Kelley said.
Sarai Stamper – Soccer
When teacher Sheila Huggins first noticed Sarai Stamper, the sixth-grader was dodging in and out of other students playing capture the flag in a physical education class at Park View Middle School.
“She stood out, even way back then,” Huggins said.
About 20 years later, Huggins presented the Hall of Fame honor to Stamper, her colleague at YHS where they both teach.
In between being her teacher and her colleague, Huggins coached Stamper on the girls soccer team at Yucaipa High. She recalled that when Stamper arrived at Yucaipa High in 1999 the girls soccer program was just getting going.
“When Sarai made varsity as a freshman, things started to change,” she said.
While leading the Thunderbirds to two league championships, she scored 75 goals, had 34 assists and earned two league MVP honors. Stamper continued her soccer career at Cal Baptist University, where she scored 34 goals, had 15 assists and was honored on the Wall of Distinction at the Riverside Hall of Fame.
Now back together at Yucaipa High, Huggins retired six years ago from coaching the successful girls program she built only because, she says, she knew Stamper would continue the legacy.
“I consider it my job to brag about you,” Huggins said, “because I am your biggest fan.”
“She was my coach and now she is my colleague and I am so blessed by that,” Stamper said as she accepted the honor from Huggins.
With many of her former and current players in attendance, Stamper spoke about all the special connections she has formed at Yucaipa High as a student and a teacher and a coach.
“There are so many people in here, all my worlds are colliding. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it,” she said, thanking her family, teachers and coaches who have supported her. “I could weave my life through your tables right now while I am looking out. It is so special from up here and I am so grateful.”
“All my girls are over there,” she said, indicating former and current players in attendance, “and that means so much to me. It kind of full circles my soccer journey.”
Matt Davidson – Baseball
When Matt Davidson asked longtime Yucaipa High baseball coach Jeff Stout to make his Hall of Fame presentation, Stout was honored. But, he refused.
He told Davidson his father should do it, no matter how emotional he might get.
“I said, ‘Matt, that is OK. That is what the Hall of Fame means to everyone who is associated with it. When you deliver, from your heart, about the life of your son, emotions are acceptable,’” Stout said.
While he traveled from Colorado to join the celebration, Stout spoke a little about first meeting Davidson as a 12-year-old and how impressed he was by both the talent and the person, but he saved the spotlight for father and son.
“I didn’t prepare anything,” Glen Davidson said during his presentation. “I am just going to speak from the heart.”
Matt’s dedication and commitment to improving his craft always amazed his father, especially once they installed a batting cage at their house.
“There were nights when we would go out there and I would throw buckets and buckets of balls until my arm was about ready to fall off,” Glen said. “Matt wasn’t done. He would go out and hit off of the tee.”
He spoke about how his son gave his MVP trophy from a high school tournament to a teammate because he didn’t think he deserved it and about how he cares for his children now that he is a father.
“I just can’t tell you how proud I am of him and his accomplishments,” Glen said as he fought through his emotions.
“Yucaipa is really everything to me,” said Matt, who made his Major League debut in August 2013. “It has really created who I am.”
He takes that with him when he goes on the road and appreciates the calls and texts his family and friends in Yucaipa send to him to show their support. The little things matter.
“I have had ups and downs in my career,” Matt said, “and when you have the downs, you realize how much those compliments and the people supporting you really help you.”
He told a childhood story of throwing the football when he was about 7- or 8-years-old with his dad while they were in the pool.
“My dad said, ‘Hey Matt, I think you have a good arm. Maybe you can be a quarterback.’ In that moment I believed in myself that I could actually do something,” he said, recalling the memory. “Now as a dad, I just want to be able to do that for my kids.”
Teri Boon – Distinguished Service
From stitching up injured coaches during halftime to performing preseason physicals, Teri Boon spent 23 years as the team doctor for the Yucaipa High football program.
“She has utilized her talents, heart, mind and soul unselfishly for years and years to be a help to the TBirds,” said former Athletic Director Mark Anderson in a statement sent from Minnesota, where he has retired.
Besides strolling the sidelines, Boon’s commitment to Yucaipa High included donating her time for annual athletic physicals.
“Athletes paid for their physicals and the money was all donated back to the program,” Carpenter said. “Doing some quick math that was close to $100,000 that Dr. Boon donated back to YHS athletics.”
“Tonight,” Carpenter said, “we are here to celebrate you and all you have done for the community.”
Boon wanted to thank everyone at Yucaipa High and keep things “short and sweet.”
“It’s been a blessing to be part of this village,” she said, referring to the Yucaipa High community.