Abby Wambach to fans at rally: I love Rochester
By Will Cleveland, Democrat and Chronicle, December 17, 2015
Abby Wambach returned home to celebrate her retirement from women's soccer on Thursday.
The Pittsford native and all-time leading goal scorer in international soccer history was welcomed by a crowd of adoring fans, many of whom arrived hours before the homecoming ceremony. And they were treated to unscripted, unfiltered, unplugged Abby.
"What a wild ride. Iím so proud to be from Rochester and I really wanted this night to celebrate my career," Wambach said after the celebration at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. "Granted last night (her final game, a 1-0 loss to China) didnít go as planned, but the reality of the situation is symbolic in terms of the way I wanted to leave the game. Clearly, the team is better with me not on the field for 72 minutes. But itís been so nice to spend it and share it with my family and with my Rochesterians."
Before she met with the media, Wambach, sporting a T-shirt that said, "Be A Good Person," delivered a heartfelt message to Rochester and her fans here.
"Iím lucky, so, so lucky, because I love where I come from," said Wambach, fighting off tears. "I want you guys all to know that Iíve never forgotten about Rochester and how important you have been for me."
About 1,000 fans packed the second-floor room, accepting custom Wambach scarves that said, "Happiness is meant to be shared," from sponsor MVP Healthcare and Wambach T-shirts as they entered. Wambach's older sister Laura and nephew Ben Ritter were among those who spoke before Abby addressed her fans. Ritter delivered the most poignant message, saying that his Aunt Abby told him, "Who do you want to be and how do you want to get there?"
Abby's fans wanted a chance to say goodbye, wanted a chance to say thank you for all of the memories and lessons Wambach provided. Soccer players from Our Lady of Mercy High School, Wambach's alma mater, were among those seated closest to the stage.
"She holds herself in way where sheís not cocky, but sheís very determined and passionate," said Kaitlyn Lisena, a senior captain for the Mercy.
"She inspires a lot of young women to want to be better," added Emily Wade, a Mercy senior captain. "Itís just amazing."
Fans began lining up as early as three hours before the doors opened. Like the girls from Mercy, they wanted to express their gratitude.
"I was just thankful that they were having this celebration, so we could just give her a proper goodbye," said Andrea von Witt of Hammondsport, Steuben County. "Her personality, itís not only big and loud, but itís really just inviting. She shares from her heart. Sheís real. Sheís authentic. She just has that unwavering determination."
Wambach's homecoming celebration allowed her share her unfiltered thoughts on a range of topics.