How would you describe who your mom was to someone who never met her?
It’s a loaded question, but when Jackie Riley’s daughters are asked to describe who their mom was, they give immediate answers.
“I think I would describe her as someone who is contagious,” Angela Magee said. “You know, she had a contagious personality. She was very much a people person, no matter if it was seeing someone through sports or at the grocery store she worked at. She was just a contagious, outgoing, fun person to be around.”
“She was absolutely vivacious,” Erica Riley said. “Just full of life. You knew when she was around. Her personality was completely contagious to everyone around her.”
But no description of Jackie Riley is complete without an inclusion of her involvement with the Prescott softball program.
School-affiliated softball wasn’t an option for Jackie when she was a Prescott student, but she made sure playing softball was a possibility for her daughters and young girls of the future.
“She had four girls and she loved to play softball,” Angela said. “It was just kind of like her thing and always had been.”
Although Jackie was unable to play softball in school, she spent her summers playing the game she loved in Hastings’ women’s leagues. She brought the game to young girls of Prescott by running Prescott Youth Athletics Association and building up the softball program as her daughters went through school.
According to Steve Block, a longtime friend of Jackie’s family and advocate for Prescott athletics, Jackie ran for office on the PYAA board once her girls were old enough to get involved with youth athletics. She then began the beginning stages of a softball program.
“She just loved sports and making sure that her daughters had an opportunity to be able to play,” Block said. “I didn’t really run anything for them, but when she didn’t think that the girls were getting their fair shake, she would lean on my shoulder a little bit and ask, ‘What’s going on? How can I get this rolling a little bit more?’
“She was pretty active, and she wasn’t afraid to work hard when she did get involved.”
“I think (Prescott Assistant Principal and Athletic Director) Matt Smith said it perfectly, ‘If there was a Mount Rushmore of Prescott softball, Jackie Riley’s face would be on it,’ and I couldn’t think of something more fitting.”
So three years after Jackie died from a hard-fought battle with cancer, her daughters and husband, Mike Riley, decided to make a $25,000 donation to the Cardinals’ field and keep Jackie’s legacy with Prescott softball alive. The donation was made to the Prescott School Board and flagged that it would be used toward the softball team’s field maintenance.
“My daughter is now a sophomore,” Angelas said. “She was on the team last year, and I’m not a part of (Prescott Fastpitch Association), but I knew they were trying to come up with ideas to make improvements. You see the baseball field and all the great things they do, and we wanted to help the girls’ team do some of those same things.”
According to Bart Matzek, a member of PFA and assistant coach of the Prescott varsity softball team, PFA has raised over $20,000 in the past five years. The funds have been used to make several field improvements at Biggs Frey Memorial Field, such as a newly built concession stand, adding siding on the press box and maintenance on the dugouts and softball field in general.
“We were thrilled when Angela approached us about her family wanting to make a donation,” Matzek said. “PFA had just received a grant from the Minnesota Twins, and we were pulling together plans for putting up a permanent outfield fence. After hearing from Angela, we quickly started organizing our broader plans to make more upgrades at Biggs Frey Field. The Riley family donation is going toward replacing all of the fencing at the field and provides us with such a great opportunity to expedite our timeline for additional improvements. We will have an outstanding facility for watching softball when this is completed thanks to the incredible generosity of the Rileys.”
Erica shared that Jackie’s top priority would be replacing Biggs Frey Memorial Field’s flimsy fence with a permanent fence that line drives won’t be able to roll under. And although Jackie may not be on board with it, her family had one requirement.
“I think we just brought it up to dad like, ‘Dad, what do you think? If we could get some naming rights would you donate?’ He didn’t really hesitate. She would hate it and be so honored at the same time.”
With the donation, Biggs Frey Memorial Field’s name will now include “At Jackie Riley Softball Complex.”
“We’re extremely grateful for Mike and his family, and we’re very excited about it,” Smith said at the October Prescott School Board meeting. “It speaks volumes to Jackie and what she meant to Prescott softball. To see her legacy live on, we’re extremely grateful for that.”
“She would hate it though,” Jackie’s daughter Elizabeth Gergen admitted. “She’d be like, ‘Just give them the money, guys.’”
“She never needed that attention,” Erica said.
“She was a big personality, but didn’t need the attention as far as, ‘Hey, look at me,’” Angela said. “She brought her own energy and she was confident in herself and the decisions she made.”
Those decisions included cleaning up the community at any chance she got, whether it was raking leaves or cleaning up a field, she made sure she was there — along with her daughters.
And whether she was out and about, at a softball game or working at Ptacek’s IGA, Jackie always made those around her feel welcomed.
“I always remember walking into Ptacek's IGA and seeing Jackie stocking the shelves or running the register,” Matzek said. “She knew I had all daughters, similar to her, and was always so friendly asking how my girls are doing. I'm sure it would be fun trading stories with her today now that my kids are older. Jackie would always go out of her way to say ‘hi’ with a smile on her face.”
Those who never met Jackie may wonder why the Riley family decided to donate to the Prescott Fastpitch Association. If you ask her daughters that question, their answer won’t be immediate. In fact, they may hesitate because they’ve never questioned their reasoning for the $25,000 donation before. It was just something their mom would have wanted.
“I think when you think of her, you think of Prescott softball,” Erica said. “That’s the first thing that comes to mind.”
“She was involved in a lot of things,” Angela said, “but I think her passion truly fell toward a softball game, whether it be a first grade or high school game.”
For Jackie’s daughters and those who knew her, it’s only fitting that she has a hand in PFA’s evolution.
“And we hope that it continues,” Elizabeth said. “This is Phase 1, and we hope that it is a snowball effect and that it keeps going.”
“It makes sense for what she would have wanted to do,” Jackie’s daughter Annie Valentine said. “She has four granddaughters who will probably go through that program, and I think that’s where she would have wanted it. It’s kind of like her being there without being there.”
For those who knew Jackie Riley, the contagious, outgoing, giving, softball-loving woman, Biggs Frey Memorial Field At Jackie Riley Softball Complex just makes sense.