At a smaller Division I school like Marist College, it’s not difficult to put a name to the face of the many athletes competing for the school. After walking around campus for four years with their bright red backpacks and constant Marist Athletics apparel, these athletes have established themselves as just that — athletes. As they round the corner to graduation, the question remains: who are they outside of their sport?
The following story is a part of Center Field’s 19 for ‘19: Stories of the Senior Class series.
When she steps up to the mound, you can be certain of three things: she has coins in her back pocket, her hair is in the same style that it has been for every game she’s played in college, and she will be thinking of absolutely nothing but softball.
Pitcher for Marist College softball, No. 19 and senior captain Megan Beiermeister has her superstitions, as most athletes do, and having a clear mind is one of the things that alters her game the most.
Since she started playing in the sixth grade, her parents knew they need to be standing far away from the mound. “I don’t like to hear my parents when I’m pitching, so they would stand far away because he knew if I heard him, I would turn around and look at him,” she said. By he, Megan was referring to her dad Scott, who had been to every game since she began playing, missing only three days games during her entire college career. As her biggest fan and supporter, her father would travel to every home and away game, acting as a stand-in parent for the girls whose parents couldn’t make the trips, and becoming close with not just the players, but the coaches as well.
The summer before Megan’s senior year of college, Scott went into the hospital for chest pains, aware of his history of heart issues. “We came home one day and he was in pain. Me and my mom had actually just come home from Marist, and we asked what was wrong and he just kept saying my chest hurts, my chest hurts,” she recalled. “This was on a Saturday.” Scott was scheduled to undergo a procedure to put stents in his heart the following Monday after seeing his cardiologist a week prior. His doctors were preparing for a typical procedure that wasn’t a big deal.
That Monday, Megan’s father underwent a triple bypass and a valve replacement which he responded well to, so Megan returned to Marist. But that did not last very long. The following Sunday, Megan’s mother called her saying her father had a stroke and her uncle was on his way to pick her up. “I got to go see him and he couldn’t move the left side of his face or his arm. It was mild, so they said they would put him in cardiac rehab and he will be back on his feet,” she said.
Megan returned back to school after seeing her father, and she was told that he would be fine in no time. But in that short time, she received a call from her mother saying that her dad’s hand — the left hand, the same side as the stroke — had swelled.
The doctors began taking CT scans and Scott began to lose body function. The idea came to the doctors that he may have HIT, or Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, caused by heparin, a medicine he was given when he entered the hospital, and used for heart problems as a blood thinner. “Heparin in some cases causes an allergic reaction called HIT and it makes your blood clot instead of thin. It’s like 1 to 3 percent of people have the reaction,” Megan explained.
Scott began to lose most function and was unresponsive most days. Megan explained that in the hospital every good day would be followed with a bad one, and the last was the worst.
“Tuesday came and that morning they said they wanted to talk about getting him a trach (tracheostomy) and a feeding tube and a wheelchair and crazy things that I was like ‘no, he would never want to live like this.’”
Megan and her mother met with a social worker to discuss quality of life. That day Megan — being an only child — and her mother sat outside the hospital and talked about how a decision would be made for them, and they wanted to have no second thoughts or regrets. They went back into the hospital to say goodnight to Scott and went home. Just a few hour later they got a call. “They said we needed to come back because he wasn’t doing well, and they didn’t know how long.
“You never think that you are going to watch someone…I never thought I would watch my dad die and I did. I was there when they took everything off.”
In a matter of two weeks and four days from the first bad signs, Megan’s dad lost his battle. Now, she and her mom were without their biggest supporter and their best friend.
Megan took the fall of her senior year off from softball in order to cope with the loss that she had so suddenly faced. “It was really hard for me to make the decision to come back and play without him here,” she said. “But because it was something that was our thing and why he was my best friend and why we were so close was because of this sport.”
Megan made the ultimate decision to go back to the game that had been her and her father’s favorite bonding experience, but she didn’t just do it for him, but for herself as well. When he was still responsive in the hospital, he made sure to tell her that she needed to go back and do what she needed to do for herself, for her sport, and for her education. She returned to student teaching, as she is studying education, remembering that her father always wanted her to do the best she could.
Megan was unsure in high school whether she would be playing in college, but her dad never stopped pushing her to try. “His encouragement and positivity and how proud he was of me is the reason why I even got to college to play and have been so successful in college,” Megan said.
“He was always the person that if I wanted to do something I could do it, there was never a doubt in his mind,” she said. “If I ever said ‘Dad I’m going to do this,’ he was always like ‘yeah you are!’ It was never a question.”
In her first game without her father, the cold on the field at Seton Hall was so unbearable that Megan couldn’t think about anything else. As the season continued, the away games became the hardest, and his absence became more glaring.
She began to think about her dad while she was pitching, and for someone with a thought-free playing superstition, her playing was quickly altered. People were telling her to play for her dad, that he would want her to do her best, and Megan was becoming upset while she was on the mound. She tried to be perfect, and tried to prove something because she was playing for him.
She recognized that she needed a change, so she approached a close friend. “He told me that I just need to play for myself and pitch for me, so when I started using that mentality I was back to where I was the past three seasons.”
“My dad was always 30 minutes early to games, always had a coffee — a vanilla latte from Starbucks — walking down the stairs every time 30 minutes early in his Marist hat and Marist jacket.” For every game that he attended — and that was most of them — Scott had a routine. You could say that is where Megan got her own superstitious routine from. Jessica Van Alphen, an alum, and her father would be there to greet him at each game and they would exchange the same words each time. “Mr. Van Alphen would get there a little bit after him and would say to him ‘Scott how’s your day today?’ and my dad would just say ‘It’s awesome, I’m just living the dream.””
Megan and her team decided to make bracelets in order to remember her father at every game, and every day. The red rubber bracelets say on the inside “Mr. Meg,” a nickname that stuck, and the day that he passed away, September 5, 2018. Across one side, the bracelets read “Scott Beiermeister,” and across the other “Just Living the Dream.”
Megan came back from a loss that could have left her hopeless. “I learned this year that things that are so important to you can be taken away in a matter of a couple of weeks, so just do everything that makes me happy,” she said. “Find my home.”
Edited by Center Field Editorial Team.
Header image by Kristin Flanigan.