A muscle disorder kept Dwight Wilcox from coaching when his eldest son joined the Annapolis Baseball Club about 10 years ago. But it has not kept him from helping out. He is the equipment manager for dozens of teams throughout the year.
Colin McHale, a member of the club's 12-and-under select team last year, did not get much playing time, but he found a niche off the field. The St. Mary's seventh-grader is the team's unofficial cheer-writer and cheerleader.
Wilcox and McHale will be honored Feb. 5 with Sportsmanship Awards from the Mid-Atlantic Recreation and Sports Alliance.
The consortium of recreation and parks departments and youth sports associations selects one coach and an athlete from a variety of areas to recognize at a ceremony in the State House in Annapolis.
Wilcox, who has the last of his three children in the club, is thrilled to get the award. There is no question that he still relishes his role.
"I wanted to help," he said. "Here is this club providing a sport my kids love. I couldn't be the treasurer - not good at the whole administrative thing - can't coach, so this seemed right up my street."
Club president and Colin's father, Steve McHale, said nominating Wilcox was not a tough choice.
"He's the backbone of our program," McHale said. "He keeps it all together and gives us what we need to keep the kids on the field."
The club has baseball programs going throughout the year on eight to 10 different groups of fields in different places around the city, Wilcox said. "So we've got to provide baseball, we've got to provide all of the equipment, and we've got to do it for a lot of places at once."
During the spring, for example, children ages 5 to 14 play on 30 to 35 teams. Wilcox orders and maintains the inventory of baseballs, catcher's equipment, batting helmets, new bats, bases, uniforms, bat bags, pitching machines and equipment bags.
He also has to put every kid in a uniform.
"Anytime you get a chance to give kids a chance to compete and pursue excellence, that's a very important thing," Wilcox said. "You want your kids to know if you work hard, you can get a result. Baseball provides that for you."
Colin has found that is true, even from the bench. One of his three brothers helped him make up cheers, and he used them for his team to encourage the pitcher or batter. Among his favorites: "H-O-M-E-R-U-N! Home Run [player's name]," yelled repeatedly, and a back-and-forth with his team members about whether they are fired up.
Coaches and teammates joined in the cheers, which fired up the players on the field.
"All of my friends and teammates and my coach would tell me to start cheers to help the batter get more confidence at the plate," he said. "It would kind of let my energy go a little bit. It's like punching a boxing bag."