As a sports writer, I try not to take myself too seriously.
After all, one of the great things about being a sports writer is that you don’t often deal with serious stuff.
Games are just that — games.
As a niche market within the field of journalism, we sports reporters flirt often with hyperbole — making things related to sports bigger than they actually are — and that’s mostly all right. Of the many things sports are to so many people, a diversion is near the top of the list.
Sometimes, though, even at a small, weekly paper like this one, things get real.
This past week, with the passing of Scott Dillon — a longtime umpire and past president at Windermere Little League — and then of Leonard “Leo” Stay — a 16-year-old track-and-field athlete and rookie wrestler for the Ocoee Knights — things got plenty real.
Although I am almost certain I’ve been in the same building — or in the case of Dillon, ballpark — as both individuals who were taken too soon from our community, I can’t say I had the pleasure of meeting either. Still, in talking to those who knew Dillon and Stay in recent days, I feel fortunate to have gotten a good sense of who they were — and lessons we all can take away.
When I spoke to folks who knew Dillon, I came to know a man who loved his family, loved baseball, loved kids and loved his community. What else can be said about a guy who stayed as heavily involved in a little league for years after his own two sons had aged out?
Then, as an umpire, he continued to find ways to be involved and around the game and to be a role model in some capacity.
What I enjoyed learning about Stay was that, despite not being the most talented athlete in either track or wrestling, he was a guy about whom Athletic Director Steve McHale said he “just wanted in (his) program.” Stay had school spirit and loved being an Ocoee Knight — something invaluable for a school that has been around for just under a decade and still is working to build an identity.
What he lacked in natural athletic ability it seems Stay made up for in supporting his teammates and lifting up those around him.
These two men likely never met each other, but they both can teach us a thing or two about putting others first — whether it is selflessly putting in time as a volunteer at a little league or any similar organization, or if it is being the guy or gal on a team or organization who brings everyone together with positivity and enthusiasm.
Wins and losses matter only so much and — even at that — only within a certain context. Sports, at times like these, though, matter plenty.
Whether it’s Dillon’s fellow umpires carrying on his legacy by wearing wristbands in his honor, young players playing ball on the field that bears his name or teammates of Stay on Ocoee’s track or wrestling teams competing in his memory, it’s important for us to never forget who Scott Dillon and Leonard Stay were and to allow their memory to help us improve ourselves, as people.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].