Former University of Mary baseball player Matt Espinosa has spent the last decade serving others as a healthcare professional, but this year has been much different due to COVID-19. During a time when Espinosa says his job has been its hardest, he was rewarded with a token of gratitude by his company, and the Las Vegas Raiders.
“Our high up medical directors got together and said these are the names that we want to go to represent our company, which was quite an honor to say we got to represent Intermountain Healthcare at this event,” Espinosa said
What he believed would be a meet and greet and photo opportunity at a Raiders game turned into something much bigger.
“Like three people came over and said, ‘you realize you’re the only person to do this outside of Al Davis’ wife. This is very special to the Raiders organization, and very special to the Davis family,'” Espinosa said.
Espinosa was randomly selected out of 20 medical workers in attendance to light the Al Davis Memorial Torch, the 93 foot structure built to honor the long time Raiders owner inside Allegiant Stadium.
“As the time came I felt my heart racing a little bit,” Espinosa said. “I was like ‘okay I’m listening for three words, and then three more words. I’ve got them in my head. I’m just looking for my cues.”
The flame lit right on cue, but what many would have considered a lucky opportunity meant more than words could describe for Espinosa, and his family. Matt’s grandfather Raymond was a life long Raiders fan.
“He passed away my second year (at UMary) when I was playing baseball, so I had to fly back for that,” Espinosa said. “That was one of the hardest days ever. It was really special to do that for him though. He was in my mind the whole time. He was a special guy to us, he was.”
Matt remembers riding bikes with his brother to his grandpa’s house to watch Raiders games, even though Matt is a 49ers fan. Now, he has a part in Raiders’ history forever.
The team is installing a plaque in the stadium signed by the healthcare workers to cement the special occasion.
“I’m going to get to take my kids to it and show them, maybe grandchildren, many many many years down the road from now,” Espinosa said. “It’s something that’s really special to do it second to Mrs. Al Davis, as well as they’ve kind of enshrined us in that little moment.”
The moment was something refreshing for Espinosa, who oversees more than 650 patients as a nurse practitioner, but it was just what he needed to stay the course during such a trying time.
“It absolutely gave me personally another wave of energy,” Espinosa said. “It was a great stress relief moment to just kind of sit back, know that you’re being honored and appreciated by not just our company, the Raiders and the city of Las Vegas itself.”
Espinosa said he will go find the plaque every time he returns to Allegiant Stadium… but he says he’ll likely be wearing his beloved 49ers jersey when he gets there