Jason Lawson, this year's Westminster Area Recreation Council Volunteer of the Year, gets a lot of enjoyment out of working with the council's youth baseball program.
The Westminster resident enjoys teaching fundamentals to the kids, and he enjoys winning although he doesn't consider it essential. But he says his biggest pleasure is instilling in those players a love of the game — the same love he has had for many years.
He began playing baseball at 6 and continued through high school. Lawson then played in summer leagues for years after that. In fact, he played baseball up until his older son Drew was 3.
As a youth, he learned to appreciate the devotion and effort of the rec volunteers. That would have a lasting effect on him.
“The coaches put in a lot of time when I was young, and I learned a lot from them,” he said. “It became a part of what I am.”
It was only a matter of time before he would feel the pull of volunteerism, too.
Not long after Drew turned 3, the youngster began showing an interest in playing baseball. Dad of course, was only too willing to get his son involved, beginning with tee ball. And Dad of course, volunteered to help out.
“That was about seven years ago. I was an assistant coach for his team, and I just did whatever needed doing,” Lawson said. “I was sort of the low man on the totem pole.”
Not long afterward he moved into another role in addition to coaching. Lawson became the coordinator for Westminster’s in-house baseball program's minor league division for players ages 9-10.
his was an administrative type of job that was most demanding before the season actually started.
“I worked on putting the teams together and setting up the coaching staffs,” Lawson said. “We ran the evaluations for players so we could distribute the talent evenly on the teams. I worked on scheduling and arranging for fields.”
He said that his toughest job as division coordinator over the past couple of years has been handling the many rain-outs the program has suffered.
“They were our biggest challenge,” he said. “We had rain on four consecutive weekends last year. Then we had to try and re-schedule all those games. That was brutal. Many times, we had to travel around to a lot of fields to see if they were playable before I could make a decision (on whether to cancel games). Luckily I had a lot of people helping me.”
His regular job involves coordinating the efforts of teams involved in high-tech computer work. He said that, in a sense, the two jobs have similarities. Both are leadership positions that involve scheduling the actions and efforts of other people and ensuring that conflicts and other problem areas are resolved so the entire operation runs smoothly.
“I learned to talk to people and work with them in both jobs. That helped me in baseball and vice versa,” Lawson said.
Ask which role he likes best, being an administrator or coaching, Lawson replied he prefers coaching. There, he can work directly with the youngsters one-on-one and have a hand in shaping them.
“I try to make them better,” Lawson said. “I want to win of course but I want them to enjoy baseball as I have for my whole life.”
At the end of last season, he left the coordinator's job, and another has taken his place. Drew, now 10, has moved on to travel ball, and his Dad is moving on with him.
This season, Lawson will be back in the familiar role of assistant coach with Drew's new team. His younger son Cameron also plays in the Westminster baseball program now, and that could provide additional volunteer opportunity.
Lawson learned of his Volunteer of the Year award just before the county's November reception for the volunteers.
“A lot of people put a lot of time into this,” Lawson said. “I feel this award is for all of Westminster’s baseball volunteers. It isn't just for me.”
With two young sons now playing, this newly honored baseball volunteer expects to have a long career ahead of him with the baseball program.
“Drew's travel program runs until he is 15 or 16,” Lawson said. “And I’ll see if my youngest son wants to stay with baseball.I'll stay in it in some capacity as long as my kids stay in it.
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“My time in baseball is just beginning.”