While Friday’s Mideastern Conference ballgame between Ashley and Laney didn’t mean much from a divisional standpoint with both teams out of the race for top spot in league standings, six seniors from the Screaming Eagles were recognized prior to first pitch to celebrate their contributions to the program as their final year in high school winds down.
One special moment prior to first pitch featured 14-year skipper Brian Stewart, who lined up along third base line with his son, Kyle. With Kyle Stewart wrapping up his last couple of games under his dad’s direction, both admitted the father-son dynamic as coach and player wasn’t always easy, but senior night provided them just one more experience and a chance to reminisce on what’s been a great ride through the game of baseball.
“It’s a sad day when you say this could be or is your last high school game,” said Brian Stewart. “It’s been good to see him come up and play. He’s learned a lot. He’s a good kid. He does well in school and he’ll do well when he gets out.
“Hopefully, one of the most important things he learned is that if you want something you have to work hard to get it. You can’t take things for granted.”
During the course of this season Stewart earned his 200th career coaching win to mark another special moment to cherish along with his son. The season also delivered some twists and turns, but Stewart said those experiences should give Kyle perspective as he gets ready to tackle the next step in his life.
“Kyle was a young kid when we had some really good teams come through here and I think that’s probably the most disappointing thing for him,” said Brian Stewart. “To see that growing up and now it’s his senior year, we’ve been up and down this year and hopefully have a few more wins in us to try and extend our season as long as possible.”
Kyle Stewart hasn’t thought much about what life is going to be like without dad trying to coach him up, but the senior shortstop has worked hard this year at becoming a better teammate on the field and leader to his team.
“Dad has definitely challenged me ,” said Kyle Stewart. “He’s been tough on me and I wasn’t doing what I needed to do earlier this season to be a better leader. He’s pushed me to be better and it’s kind of scary honestly not having my dad around all the time. He’s always been by my side.”
The challenges of being a good coach and better dad is something Coach Stewart has tackled head on, but one thing’s for sure, as the final few games of their final season together comes to a close, the memories shared over the years will always be something dear to their hearts and ingrained in their minds forever.
“You try to treat each player the same and it’s hard not to be tougher on [Kyle] and sometimes it’s unfair to him,” said Brian Stewart. “Sometimes I think you expect more and ask yourself, Would I talk to another player the way I did my son‘?”
While winning ballgames is the easiest way to get recognized, putting life lessons on the diamond into life outside the game, which is often about choices, hard work and nurturing relationships, is the most important virtue he wants to pass on to not only Kyle, but all the student-athletes who come through the baseball program at Ashley.
“I just try to let him know that life is a lot like what’s happening right now on the field,” said Stewart. “You’re not always going to be on top, but you can’t let that get in the way of working hard and doing the right thing.”
By Joe Catenacci, Port City Dailey