Ryan Teixeira’s smile could light up a room. He loved every person he ever met. He always had a good attitude.
Hundreds filled the bleachers at Doug Hitchen Stadium at Arroyo Grande High School on Sunday as Teixeira’s family members and some close friends took the podium during the former baseball standout’s memorial service to share what they loved most about him.
“Ryan loved. He loved life, he loved baseball, he loved you, but most of all, he loved Jesus,” said Steve Teixeira, Ryan’s father, as he held back tears.
Addressing Ryan, he said, “I’m so proud of the man you became.”
“We will always love you and miss you, until we meet at heaven’s gates,” Steve Teixeira concluded.
Ryan Teixeira died March 4 at 20 years old. He had been diagnosed with leukemia eight months after his final round of chemotherapy stemming from an initial cancer diagnosis.
Teixeira’s brother, Aaron, spoke Sunday about all the things he wished he had gotten to see his brother do, like play for Colorado Mesa University and get married.
“When you miss him, just remember that Ryan would say this, hand gestures and all,” he said as the audience laughed. “Lock it in. You got this. Be strong.”
Teixeira’s girlfriend, Nicole Pitman, remembered the way she and Teixeira would plan their future together — where they would get married, where they would build their house, how many kids they would have.
“He said we keep going till we get a boy,” she said, as the audience chuckled.
The hashtag #17strong filled social media feeds and adorned T-shirts as Teixeira underwent treatment for cancer, beat it, and then was diagnosed with cancer again. He chose to wear the number 17 on the baseball field because of its biblical significance — it often symbolizes victory. Teixeira’s former teammates from Colorado Mesa University’s baseball team as well as Arroyo Grande High athletes attended the ceremony.
“Ryan was the closest thing I ever had to an older brother,” said his cousin, Nathan Teixeira, who recounted afternoons spent playing video games and whiffle ball.
“The devil went after everything you had, and I realize that,” he said, crying, as he spoke to Teixeira’s parents. “Ryan is up in heaven, cancer-free and living the life of his dreams.”
“We shared so many interests, it was impossible to not immediately share a common bond,” said Garrett Ball, Teixeira’s best friend and former teammate. “Ryan’s light I was drawn to, because he was the light.”
Madeline Ferrante, Teixeira’s cousin, read aloud from a journal she kept while Teixeira was in the hospital. She had planned to give him the journal when he got out.
“You’ve been my best friend since the day you were born. I’m honored to be feeding you ice chips,” she said. Then, addressing the crowd said, “Ryan was more than my cousin. Ryan was my very first and very best friend.”
On Friday, Teixeira’s baseball number, 17, was retired in an emotional ceremony attended by former teammates, friends and family. That ceremony also marked the first time an Arroyo Grande baseball jersey number had been retired.
Pastor Patrick Sparrow, the senior pastor of Equippers Church, the church Teixeira’s family attends, gave the eulogy at Sunday’s ceremony.
“The reason so many people are here today is because of how he lived his faith,” Sparrow said.
Correction: an earlier version of this story misstated the name of the church Pastor Patrick Sparrow pastors.