My sister got all the athletic talent in our family, so I’ve never been on a ball diamond for more than a few tortured hours during compulsory school games (always relegated to right field, where I could do little harm). But you don’t have to be an athlete to understand this story. It’s an homage to a great coach from a grateful player, looking back on his boyhood experiences.
Last summer, my friend Chris English went to Fayetteville, North Carolina and spent a couple of days with Iverson “Smitty” Smith, his boyhood baseball coach. Smitty had a profound impact on Chris. “He wasn’t just a coach,” Chris says, “he was a life coach.” Chris sometimes calls me for a little editing help, when he gets on a tight deadline or needs another set of eyes and ears. I love working with him, because, well, he just has the most wide-open heart for story, and he makes amazing photographs.
At first Chris just intended this to be a feel-good story to celebrate an unsung, humble hero. But it took on additional poignancy and urgency when Chris learned that Smitty is suffering an inoperable, malignant brain tumor.
We should all have a Smitty in our lives. Godspeed, Coach, and keep fighting.