Remembering Cleveland media's Matt Loede

October 5th, 2021

May 2, 2019. I can still relive that day as if it was yesterday.

A handful of Cleveland staffers and a couple media members were crowded in a small space at a local school library to watch José Ramírez interact with students.

“Did you hear about Loede?” someone in the Cleveland communications department asked me.

I was new. I hardly remembered anyone’s name at this point, having been there for just over one month. So, I didn’t want to look rude by saying I didn’t know who it was. I just said, “No, what happened?”

That’s when I learned Matt Loede had gone public with a cancer diagnosis that would inevitably take his life at age 46 just under two and a half years later.

To some, he was Matt. To others, especially those in the press box, he was Loede. And the sports fanatic had been a part of the Cleveland media contingent for over two decades when he got this news. But for anyone who knew Loede at the time, it was clear that cancer would never beat him, even if it took his life. But at the time, I didn’t know that about him.

I didn’t need to remember who he was for this to be gut-wrenching news. But I couldn’t help but scan my brain through every face I may have seen at Progressive Field at that time. “Loede” wasn’t ringing a bell -- nor were a lot of names at that time as I still struggled to find my footing.

But the next week brought a week-long homestand, where I was sure I’d be able to ask people more questions about him to try to remember who he was. There’s no chance he’d be there after receiving this news, I assumed, so I needed to figure out who he was in more creative ways.

I was wrong.

A group of random media members emerged from the elevator on the fourth floor at Progressive Field and someone was constantly cracking jokes. I remembered him, but I couldn’t remember his name. During my early days in Cleveland, I named people based on my own recollection of things about them in ways like the FRIENDS television show named their episodes, and this guy’s name was, ‘The One Who Kept Everyone Laughing.'

I got this name because one of the first days of the season, I was off to the side, trying to meet people, but also trying to observe. I wanted to understand who these people were and what they were like in order to fit in. And I was fixated on this group of media members surrounding Loede like he was Mike Trout walking in for an interview. I remember thinking this guy has to be really special or really funny or something to have that kind of a flock.

He rarely showed emotion on his face while running through punchline after punchline. He wasn’t in this to make his day better, he was doing this to hear everyone else laugh -- something that summarizes Matt Loede to a T. But I didn’t know that at the time.

As we walked out of the elevator, it hit me that 'The One Who Kept Everyone Laughing' was actually Loede, the one who has cancer. And in that moment, I realized that as long as this guy was on Earth, he’d be an inspiration to me, his friends, family, followers and anyone he crossed paths with.

Just weeks after receiving this news, he never appeared sad. He never seemed down. He relied so heavily on his faith that he fought through some of the most aggressive types of cancer, treatments and other illnesses driven by that inner strength. And when I saw this man, who received a nightmare of a diagnosis, he was more focused on keeping the crowd laughing and making sure everyone else was enjoying the day than he did about himself.

I didn’t know Loede without cancer. I wish I would’ve. I wish I could sit here and write about how incredible he was in the community and give examples of what he did for upcoming broadcasters and journalists like countless of other tributes have this past week. I wish I could tell everyone about the antics he got into while in the press box at Progressive Field. I can’t give those stories, but in the limited time I knew him, every single thing that people said were the best qualities about him over this past week -- I somehow experienced them all in smaller forms.

The one thing I’ve been told by everyone is that Loede had a sense of humor like no other. He was able to make fun of people without being mean. He could relate to everyone and find ways to bring a smile to their face. The day I introduced him to my now-fiancé, Loede asked him what was taking him so long to pop the question. Maybe if someone else had said it, that would have come across a little aggressive as the first words to ever mutter to a new person, but Loede had a way of making everyone -- including my then-boyfriend -- crack up laughing over it. When I eventually received a proposal, I immediately texted Loede and told him he’s credited with the assist.

The second thing that you always hear people talk about when they’re talking about Loede is that he loved being around people. That was quite evident when his funeral service on Tuesday drew more of a crowd than an Easter Sunday service. Even while he was sick, he was so focused on being with his friends. He so badly wanted a group of us from the Cleveland beat to get together, but because of schedule conflicts, it ended up just being him, his wonderful wife, Shanna, and me to go out for Chinese food.

He had just gotten treatment that morning. I begged him to just reschedule and allow himself to rest. He, like usual, refused. He knew it was the best day for my schedule and insisted on making it work. I met them at their house and when we headed to the car, he raced out the door to beat both his wife and me there to open our doors for us. He did the same to get us out of the car when we got to the restaurant. I started asking about his health and he’d answer everything in full -- he never was shy about sharing his experiences -- but always quickly wrapped up his answers with something steering the conversation back towards you.

The stories that everyone has now had a chance to hear about Matt Loede since his death on Sept. 29 couldn’t be more true. In that moment in the clubhouse, when he was 'The One Who Kept Everyone Laughing,' I didn’t think I knew him. But somehow, after two and a half years of becoming great friends through this journey, I look back to that dreadful day on May 2, 2019, and realize, I already knew everything about him that I’ve since learned from those few seconds I had been around him.

The third row of the press box at Progressive Field will never be the same. I’ll miss the time we had to talk about his favorite trips, singers and food spots. I’ll miss him playfully making fun of me. But what I’m excited for are the stories that will continue to come out about him to learn more about his 46 wonderful years of life. And we all know that most of them will involve humor.

He may be gone, but he’ll forever be The One Who Keeps Everyone Laughing.