By Matt Clapp
I had just moved to Manhattan Beach, California, as a four-year-old kid and had no friends yet. I sat around playing with my He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures by myself. A boy saw me playing in the yard with this stuff and approached me. He hated all these toys, he was all about sports, particularly baseball. We were nothing alike except for that we each lived in this neighborhood, each were the same age, and each were about to attend pre-school together.
However, soon we were hanging out every single day, and he began to get me into sports. I reluctantly decided to play tee ball and be on his team, then the same with basketball, and then soccer. All of a sudden I became a sports nut, just like him. We were playing catch every day, shooting hoops, and then watching all of these sports on television all the time. We became really good at these sports, practicing more than anybody else around and in the hopes that one day we could be professional athletes like the guys we absolutely idolized. He wanted to be the next Gary Carter and I wanted to be the next Ryne Sandberg.
After five years there, my dad got a job that forced us to move to North Carolina. Henry and I were crushed. As devastated as I was to move to a new life, he was every bit as much as hurt to see me go.
He made sure our friendship would never end. He'd call me all the time, asking if I was making some new friends, how baseball and basketball were going, talk about my Cubs and his Mets, etc.
Three years later, we were forced to move because of my dad's job again, this time to Colorado. It became so difficult for me. I'd start to make new friends and then all of a sudden I have to start the process over again. New schools, new sports leagues, all of this stuff over and over.
But there's Henry again, calling me all the time and giving me his support. He was excited because we were only a few states away this time. So he of course came to visit a bunch. It still was hard on us though. I remember one time we took him to his gate at the airport and he didn't want to get on his flight. He burst out crying and wanted to stay here with me, but he of course had to go back home to California.
He always wanted to be there for my big moments. Twice I had a couple important baseball tournaments here in Colorado and we were looking for an extra player. I brought this up to Henry and sure enough he hops on a plane to come play on my team both times.
Then in 2003 I wanted to go to Chicago to watch the Cubs in the playoffs. Henry wasn't a Cubs fan, but he knew how much they meant to me, and he wanted to be there to hopefully celebrate with me. So we got on separate flights from Denver and Los Angeles to Chicago. As I went to meet him at the baggage claim, he came down the escalator chatting away with sports columnist Michael Holley, who I recognized right away from ESPN's "Around the Horn." Holley tells me how Henry spent much of the flight talking about all of my writing. This was the perfect example of how Henry was. Not only was he confidently speaking to a famous person like it was nothing, he was telling this person all about his friend instead of himself.
I frequently got mad at myself for not attempting to hold up our friendship quite as much as Henry did. I've always been pretty shy and independent, whereas Henry was full of energy and the most outgoing person I've ever met in my life. He really took advantage of every day of his life, a go-getter.
It's just not right that it had to end so soon. This morning I found out Angels' incredibly talented rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in a car crash just a few hours after he pitched an outstanding game last night. It's absolutely terrible and my thoughts go out to his family and friends, but I couldn't help but worry that my best friend was also in that car after I heard there were others killed. Henry frequently told me how he's good friends with Nick and tries to be at Nick's side for every pitching outing in Anaheim. Like he was with me, he wanted to be there for Nick's big moment and be there to celebrate. Well they did, and it's so sad they won't get to do it again.
Henry had just entered the world of being a sports agent and I have no doubt he was going to be one of the best. Full of confidence, a great personality, always smiling, and always trying to improve at what he was passionate about. There wasn't a more ideal job on the planet for him with his love of sports, his personality, and how much he supports the people around him. He'd do anything for his friends, and in this case, clients.
I had hoped one day we'd be living together or at least near each other just like old times. I'd do my sports writing(which I would've never been interested in if not for Henry), he'd do his job, then after work we'd grab a beer and watch a baseball game together. I can't even begin to explain how much it saddens me that we'll never get that chance, and it hurts so much more so that we'll never even get to hang out again.
There's so much more that I could say that I can't even think about right now as I write this with tears dripping down my face. I wouldn't be anything like I am today without Henry. He changed my life more than anybody. I've lost my best friend and the world's lost an unbelievably special young man that had such a bright future ahead. We'll miss you buddy, you have no idea.
R.I.P. Henry Pearson
Written by Matt Clapp, www.sharapovasthigh.com