The story of San Diego Padres’ minor league outfielder Matthew Acosta and how the outfielder plays the game of baseball for his best friend, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident last year.
Life is precious.
One can never take that fact for granted as your world may turn upside down at the drop of a hat.
For a baseball player, having this perspective can be beneficial, as the game is all about failure and how you come back from it. Matthew Acosta knows all about pain and failure, as he has endured a lot at his young age. The outfielder lost his grandmother at an early age. She was very close to him and was lost his Sophomore year in high school after living the tail end of her life with Acosta’s family.
What would cripple most, Matthew Acosta uses as motivation. His faith has helped him in life’s journey.
It was the day before Thanksgiving of 2018. Two best friends, Matthew Acosta and Kaler Pawling, were spending some quality time together. “We went to my old high school, and we hit,” Acosta said. The Thanksgiving break from school allowed the two to hang out. “I don’t know why, but it was just different. When we hit, we talked about the future and how, when we were older, we were going to take our kids to the lake (where we met) — just being uncles to our kids even though we weren’t blood-related. No matter what- I saw him as a brother,” Acosta said emotionally. Baseball was always something that united the bond between these two friends who loved the game.
The duo returned to Acosta’s parents’ house, where they watched sports together. Matthew had some homework to do, and Kaler just hung out with his best friend. “It was around 6:30 at night when he left. I walked him out and told him to have a good Thanksgiving. I told him- I will see you on Saturday when we go hit with my dad,” Acosta said. That was the last time Matthew saw his best friend, and that has had a lasting effect on him. “It ate at me for a while. Why was I the last one to see him? Why was he taken so young? Why couldn’t it have been his parents or his brother?” Acosta said somberly.
18-year-old Kaler Pawling was killed in a one-car accident as his Toyota 4-Runner rolled off the 241 Toll Road in Orange, California. The cab of the truck was crushed, killing the young man at the scene. Toxicology reports indicated that alcohol or drugs were not a factor, and the teen was not on his phone. Pawling was just on his way home from Matthew Acosta’s house, and an accident happened. Tomorrow is never promised. That is something that you learn the hard way. If you have not experienced this epiphany, it is probably because you have not felt a significant loss. Matthew Acosta sadly knows this fact well. He is determined to utilize his experiences in life in a positive manner.
“He was usually pretty good about texting me when he got home and stuff. He never texted me when he got home that night. I didn’t think about it or realize until after I got done with my workout. I went to workout around eight and got home around 9:15 pm. His mom called me and told me the news,” Acosta said quietly. “I will always remember the day. I dropped to the floor, talking to her. I couldn’t talk to her. I gave my phone to my mom. We left the house to be with them,” Acosta said with a cracking voice. The emotion of the discussion was taking a toll on the young baseball player, but he wanted to speak more. He wants people to know his motivation. Matthew Acosta is a brave man, as his life changed in the matter of hours. One moment Kaler was there, and the next, he was taken away.
Pawling was a right-handed hitting catcher two years younger than Acosta, and the duo were best friends since they first met. Kaler Pawling was attending TCS Post Graduate Academy, which was out of Texas. The academy, similar to the IMG Academy out of Florida, has successfully turned non-drafted high-school baseball players into relevant talent. Pawling was optimistic about continuing his baseball career at the next level, whether it be as a professional or in college. He had every reason to be confident about his future. His loss is yet another reminder of how fragile life can be.
Matthew Acosta plays the game of baseball for his best friend. The love and passion for the sport initially came from his family, but the recent loss of his friends is powering him to a whole new level. Acosta is not a cocky player but has a quiet calmness about the way he takes the field. The left-handed hitter speaks about dreams he has of playing in the Major Leagues and the fact his friends and family are there. These dreams are vivid. “I always dreamed of making it to the Majors. This gives me more of a drive because baseball was our thing. It was something we worked so hard for and had a love for. I don’t see any reason why I will not make it for the both of us,” Acosta said about his journey to the Majors. The struggle will be difficult, but the 21-year-old left-handed hitter showed a strong first appearance as a professional in Tri-City, recording a .350 on-base percentage and striking out 37 times in 231 at-bats with the Dust Devils.
Acosta was recruited to USC as a two-way player. He was a pretty decent left-handed pitcher in high school, and that was very appealing to the school. As injuries hit the team in the outfield, Acosta was asked to concentrate there. He had a great showing in the fall league with the bat, which impressed the coaches, and the rest goes from there. The native Californian has a plus arm from the outfield and was throwing in the low 90s out of high school a few years ago. You never know in the game of baseball. Acosta has his mind open as anything can happen. All he knows is that he hopes to succeed one day in accomplishing his arduous task.
The passion that Acosta has for the game of baseball came to him at an early age. He remembers playing the sport he loves when he was very young. “My dad came from Cuba when he was five years old and passed this baseball dream to me and my brothers,” Acosta said. He is the last of his three brothers to play competitively. “I am not just playing for them anymore. I am playing for my best friend who lived died and breathed baseball just like me,” Acosta said about his passion for the game. There is no doubt he has the drive. Luck will need to be on his side, but there is no stopping his thirst to be a Major Leaguer. Kaler is by his side, and the memory of his best friend will guide him during the tough times that are inevitably ahead.