Matt Yerke was working a Lakers game as an audio technician when he got a call from a colleague who was on vacation in Costa Rica.
He answered the phone. His friend was panicked because his rental truck was stuck in the mud.
Yerke, who could fix just about anything, guided his friend through the process of getting the truck out.
That person approached Yerke’s sister, Micky Yerke, at the viewing for her brother in Fallbrook on May 13. She didn’t remember his name because she met so many people that day.
It was one of so many heartfelt messages she and her family treasure. Those are things that comfort them. Yerke died suddenly on May 5 of natural causes while on a desert camping trip in California with friends, Micky said. He was 44.
“What’s funny is he was never a huge watcher of sports,” Micky said. “We were more of a family that did outdoor sports. It’s kind of ironic that he worked in that industry. He very much enjoyed being there and the energy with his co-workers. It was a great place for his energy to go.
“He worked sports games for over 25 years and he loved it so much. He enjoyed seeing the celebrities there and also people in regular seats.”
Yerke, who lived in Huntington Beach, worked behind-the-scenes for Lakers games since the early 1990s. Yerke and Dean Benson, a stage manager, worked together for 25 years and were best friends.
They helped set the stage for pregame and postgame interviews with everyone from Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson to Ice Cube and Clayton Kershaw.
“We’re all a big family,” Benson said. “I’m a stage manager and he’s an A2 (audio technician) and we work together really closely. I was on pretty much every show he was on. It becomes every night of your life and that’s the nature of our business, we work pretty much all the time. He was my work wife.
“He’s younger than me. We were exact opposites. He’s motorcycles and fireworks and desert camping and roughing it. I’m hotels and and good food … I cracked him up. We were opposites but we connected.”
Benson always had jokes, and Yerke always had Starbursts and a smile.
“We’re requested by directors and schedulers because they want good people,” Benson said. “There’s a lot of A2s (audio technicians) but he was one of the best, if not the best for years. He was a hard worker. They break down the truck and they load the truck, too. There’s 30 people doing that. Some people are hard workers and some people work hard and do it with a smile. That was Matt. That’s one of the reasons why everyone loved him.”
In his spare time, Yerke loved camping and riding motorcycles.
“He did much prefer the outdoors than indoors,” Micky said. “Since a young age, We would go camping with my parents. They both rode motorcycles. My brother and I were taught to ride them at a young age.
“He raced BMX bikes. He just loved being able to be outside and get dirty. He worshipped my dad (Dennis Yerke). As a young guy he was always following him around and wanted to emulate his behavior. They had very similar personalities when it came to keeping busy.”
Yerke worked Dodgers and Lakers broadcasts for Fox Sports West and then SportsNet LA and Spectrum SportsNet, respectively. He worked side-by-side with Dodgers reporter Alanna Rizzo on SportsNet LA. That’s 81 home games and playoff games.
“He was just the consummate professional but always had a smile on his face,” Rizzo said.. “You had such peace knowing he was on your crew because you knew everything was going to be done correctly. There was never a concern or worry that you were going to have an audio issue.
“He was always kind. Always smiling. Always in a good mood. Just genuinely wonderful to be around.”
Yerke would easily chat with security personnel and fans, as well as actors and celebrities. Micky said her brother was excited about meeting Jeff Bridges and Penny Marshall on the Dodgers pregame show, but otherwise didn’t get starstruck.
Fox Sports West paid tribute to Yerke on social media recently.
“… We honor the memory of Matt Yerke, a beloved and long-time crew member who we unexpectedly lost last week. He brought so much to each production he worked and will be missed by all in our family,” Fox Sports West tweeted.