Sports

Driven to succeed

It was just over two years ago that Dan Dillard knew he had something to prove.

As he scanned down the just released roster sheet for the South Kitsap junior varsity baseball team, it took him a while to find his name. And when he found it, he knew right then what he had to do.

“I was the last name on the list,” Dillard said. “So I figured I had to prove something to them.”

He did indeed and he has.

And as the 11-5 Wolves head into their final regular-season series of the year needing to sweep North kitsap to ensure a playoff spot, Dillard figures to be right in the middle of the action.

Dillard has worked his way up through the ranks and has been the Wolves starting shortstop all season and entered the final two weeks of the regular season batting .412 while committing just two errors all year.

“He's a self-made man,” South coach Jim Fairweather said. “He's come a long way in his three years here I think.”

But he almost never got the chance to prove himself. After trying out as a sophomore, then-coach Elton Goodwin, assist Don Smith and Fairweather had some reservations about Dillard.

“We questioned weather we were going to keep him,” Fairweather said. “(But) he made good contact and he hustled and we thought that we'd take a chance. This is a kid we really, seriously thought about cutting and he's going to go play (college baseball) for someone next year. I'm just real pleased for him.”

Dillard grew up playing baseball, from T-ball in the South Kitsap Southern Little league to Babe Ruth to select, it's the one sports that has always drew his interest.

As a sophomore, he started on the C team but found his way into junior varsity games because of his slick fielding. As a junior, Dillard hit above .500 on the JV and worked his way into spot pitching performances on the varsity before eventually being called up late in the year and remained on the team through the playoff run.

“He's done everything he's supposed to to get him self better,” Fairweather said. “About the only thing I could nag him for is his dedication to the weight room. He needs to get stronger because the next level is going to demand that.

“He's dorky and quirky and all those things,” Fairweather said. “But it's all in a good way. There are some kids that are dorky and quirky and drive you nuts and he doesn't drive us nuts.”

But he does drive some of his teammates nuts, at least in the dugout.

“Apparently, I just make annoying noises,” Dillard said. “People tell me to shut up but I yell. I'll do it for like a minute and half and people just look at me and tell me to shut up.”

Which is pretty amazing considering some of the noises that emit from the South dugout courtesy of Brad Ossman and David Hammrich.

“Like he said, he makes this little noises and people look at him like he's weird but they fall right in with it,” Fairweather said. “Dan is a man of few words - he's a pretty quiet kid, he doesn't say a lot and he has a dry sense of humor but it works with this team because there's no one else like him. He gets to be original and that's appreciated.”

Fairweather also said he appreciates Dillard's work ethic and the fact he always seems to be on base, waiting for others to drive him in.

“I was counting on him to be right there,” Fairweather said. “He might be a little higher average-wise than I thought he might be. I'm just glad it really worked out.”

Dillard has been batting second most of the year but hasn't seen the mound his off-season shoulder surgery.

“Sometimes, I want to pitch,” Dillard said. “But others times I just like being out in the field. It really helps knowing that there is someone behind me that can hit the ball and get me in. "I've had a lot of fun playing baseball. It's been fun this year hitting the ball.”

Especially after what might have been.

“I went back and told my dad that I was the last name on the list and i had to do something to prove my self,” Dillard said. “It just shows me that my hard work paid off. And that I somewhat proved myself but I have more proving left to do - I think the whole team does.”

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