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Family of Virginia Beach baseball coach killed in crash creating scholarship for student-athletes

John Hefti.PNG
Posted at 9:19 PM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 23:16:02-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Members of the Great Neck Baseball League in Virginia Beach are mourning the loss of a beloved coach and Navy veteran. Investigators said John Hefti was killed in a crash last Monday at North Great Neck Road and Shorehaven Drive.

The crash involved multiple vehicles. Hefti was hit head-on by a pickup truck that veered into oncoming traffic.

Authorities haven’t revealed what led up to the crash.

To Scott Van Gilder, Hefti were close both in and out of the dugout.

“As a dad, when you were around John, you wanted to be a better person. You wanted to be a better dad,” Van Gilder told News 3. “He loved coaching so much, and he encouraged the kids to do their best, no matter what.”

“Something’s missing,” Great Neck Baseball League coach Richard Velasco said. “A big, big part of us is missing.”

That big part, Velasco said, was his fellow coach of the Reds for the Great Neck Baseball League.

For about six years, Hefti coached in the league. This came after a nearly 30-year career serving in the U.S. Navy.

Whether on a ship deck or a baseball diamond, Velasco said Hefti was a hit among many.

“Everything he did out here was for the kids. They were always first for him,” Velasco said. “It didn’t matter what the score was. It didn’t matter who made an error. It didn’t matter who hit a home run. Every single player to him was just as important as the next.”

“Everyone is going to miss him forever,” Velasco’s son, Jacob Velasco, said. “No matter what you did, he was always proud of you and was just really nice and he would never get mad or angry at you and he would always cheer for you even if you played for another team.”

But it's last Monday’s crash that's on everyone's mind.

“I was dead asleep. I’ll never forget it until the day I die,” Van Gilder said.

Since Hefti’s death, his family has gone to GoFundMe to raise money for a scholarship created in Hefti’s name to help local student-athletes.

Van Gilder told News 3 the scholarship is an example of the Hefti family’s dedication to community.

“The family’s not out there soliciting donations for their son, who now is going to grow up without a father,” Van Gilder said. “They’re soliciting donations for a scholarship fund in John’s name to help someone else out.”

Meanwhile, those like Velasco will work to live up to the example Hefti set both on and off the field.

“No one’s going to forget John Hefti,” Velasco said. “His light shines on through all of these kids and everybody he has touched out here.”

Monday, News 3 reached out to Virginia Beach Police multiple times for any new information, including details on what led up to the crash, but did not hear anything back.