#15 Passed Down To James Hickok

One of the highlights of last night’s Staples soccer banquet was the start of a new tradition:  passing along Preston Hirten’s #15 to a younger player.

Preston Hirten, #15

Before the announcement, Preston’s mother Lisa described in loving detail how important it had been for the Hirten family to watch Frankie carry on Preston’s tradition of tough, passionate and prideful play.  She thanked him for helping maintain Preston’s memory in so many ways.

Frankie Bergonzi — who wore #15 for the past 3 years — then spoke eloquently of what the number meant to him.  He called it “the greatest honor of all,” and quoted the Hirtens’ note to him 5 days after Preston’s death:

Frankie…we will be watching you.  You are the perfect person to wear Preston’s number.  Good luck this year.  Go for it the way Preston would.  Love you guys.  Marc and Lisa Hirten.

Frankie Bergonzi, #15

“To this day,” Frankie said, “the biggest compliment I have ever received was that in the eyes of his own father, I was worthy of wearing Preston’s number.”

Though Frankie had always thought of #15 as his own number — both he and his father were born on the 15th — he spent the last 2 years thinking of it as Preston’s number.  “I was just given the privilege of borrowing it for a few years,” he said.

Frankie recalled being in 8th grade, and watching Preston:

He had speed.  He had skill.  He had composure.  But what I admired most was his heart and determination.  This kid simply never quit.  He was relentless.

Frankie continued:

Preston’s incredible work rate game after game influenced me to become a harder worker.  I wanted people to say the same things about me when they evaluated me as a soccer player, and more importantly as a person.  I wanted to be known as the hardest worker, and the kid with the most  heart….

I knew there would be times when I wouldn’t be the strongest kid on the field, or the fastest.  But I also knew that outworking my opponent was always within my control.  I learned from Preston that you can’t always control what’s going to happen on the soccer field, but you always have control over your work ethic and that nothing should prevent you from working hard.

After describing Preston’s kindness to him as a young Watermelon Cup player, Frankie said:

My most heartfelt memory of last year’s state championship was not winning the game.  It really wasn’t.  It was going up to the stands after all the celebration, and seeing Preston’s mom.  I went up to her, and she thanked me for wearing Preston’s number so proudly.  That moment will stay with me forever.

And then — citing his charge to “give the number to a player who played the game most like Preston, with unparalleled determination and passion” — Frankie concluded:

It is my responsibility to hereby pass on #15 to James Hickok.

Thank you, Frankie.  Congratulations, James.  Preston Hirten’s memory lives on.

James Hickok, #15 (Photo/Christian Abraham CT Post)

4 responses to “#15 Passed Down To James Hickok

  1. One of the clear highlights of the evening came from Lisa Hirten and Frankie Bergonzi in naming the next “15”. Lisa speaking about Preston’s legacy, was heartfelt and reminded all of us how precious life is. We are reminded that the significance of wearing Preston’s number is all about honor and courage, and is a wonderful memory of Preston and his positive attributes both on and off the field. Frankie delivered the most eloquent, thoughtful and respectful speech on the honor and responsibility of wearing the “15”. He choice of James Hickok was passsionate, thoughtful, and showed significant courage and conviction in ensuring that Preston’s leagcy would be carried on in the best possible light. It is nights like tonight that we are all reminded how significant Staples Soccer is in all of our lives, and how those we choose to be leaders both on and off the field, fully understand the responsibility that they carry forward. Frankie, we are so proud of your elegant, thoughtful, responsible and passionate delivery!!! The Gudis Family.

  2. Frankie,
    Last night you were truely unbelievable. From the moment you stepped up to the podium you were honest, kind, eloquent and so filled with emotion. You have been an inspiration to all of us as we watched you continue to wear the number 15 for the past two seasons, knowing all that it meant to you, and the Staples soccer community. We are all so proud of you. You were a fierce competor on the field , a loyal friend and teammate, and last night you demonstrated again to everyone exactly why you were the perfect player and person to continue the special spirit of number 15. We will continue to follow your successes with much pride, but we will always remember last night with both a smile and a tear. Love, The Lesch Family

  3. Frankie,
    We just wanted to say what a honor it is for our son to follow in your and Preston’s footsteps. We did not personally know Preston Hirten, but the qualities you exhibited on Sunday – heart, strength-of-character, wrapped up in a lot of class! – say a lot about Preston and the #15 tradition.
    We can’t wait to hear more about you in the future, as we know these qualities will serve you well! Best of luck in all your endeavors,
    The Hickok Family

  4. Frankie,
    There are no words to describe how Lisa and I felt the other night during your presentation. You were the perfect person to wear the #15. Your leadership and maturity will serve you well into the future. I have always felt that Preston had something to do with you having his number. By the way…Preston and I also share a birthday. Coincidence? Good luck with your future. Remember that your words and your actions have impact on others. That’s what leadership is all about. Marc and Lisa Hirten

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