MADISON — Dillion Weldy had not been able to play baseball since he was very young.
The 2019 NorthWood High School graduate was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 7 and had other conditions (he had heart surgery at two weeks old and has a heart murmur and a abnormally-shaped bicuspid aortic valve) that had doctors telling him not to play sports.
To stay involved when he got to high school, he became a student manager — first for boys basketball and then baseball.
With the help of Panthers head coach A.J. Risedorph, Weldy was allowed to be a manager for the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison.
Released by his doctors to be more active this spring, the 18-year-old Weldy was able to participate more in practice at NorthWood and he did the same with the North all-stars, catching balls for coaches during workouts this past Friday.
Weldy was recognized at the all-star banquet at Hanover College and the next day before the first game of the series.
Risedorph reached out to district representative Ryan Wolfe (Plymouth) who pitched the idea of Weldy managing the all-stars to executive director Brian Abbott and the IHSBCA leadership.
“I wanted to give Dillion that opportunity for everything he’s done for us,” says Risedorph. “It’s a selfless job and you don’t get many thank you’s.”
Weldy had fun with the players and did his job in the dugout.
Then came an unexpected part to the weekend.
With mother Cindy Lamb, little sister Kaitlin Lamb and Risedorph in the stands and classmate Matt Dutkowski competing for the North, Dillion got to play in his first high school baseball game — and it was in an all-star game.
Weldy was inserted as a pinch-runner just prior to the third out in the top of the eighth inning.
After the South prevailed 7-3 in Game 1, the North won 16-3 in Game 2 and 8-4 in Game 3. First baseman Dutkowski went 2-for-8 with one run batted in, one run scored and 13 putouts.
There were other shining moments by the all-stars.
But Weldy’s chance to play was seen as the highlight of the weekend for many as evidenced by the many shares on social media.
Weldy had a golf ball-sized tumor removed from his spine in 2008 and went through two years of treatment. He was declared to be in remission in October 2010, but was still physically restricted.
Though reluctant at first, he took to managing for the boys basketball program led by Aaron Wolfe and featuring Risedorph as an assistant.
Dillion got to cut down the nets as a freshman when NorthWood won a sectional hoops title.
“When basketball season was all over, it was ‘what am I going to do next?,’” said Weldy. “Let’s do baseball because I’m pretty familiar with baseball.”
Former NorthWood head baseball coach Jay Sheets was very receptive of his new manager.
“He treated me like I was part of the team, which I really loved,” said Weldy.
Risedorph made sure that acceptance continued when he took over as head baseball coach in 2018-19.
“He’s bought into our motto of being relentless and the next pitch mentality,” said Risedorph of Weldy. “He shows up everyday and puts his work in.
“He’s a constant reminder of how precious life is considering his background.”
Weldy led the NorthWood team onto the floor on basketball senior night and threw out a first pitch on baseball senior night.
“Coach Rise said it was an ‘all-day strike’,” said Weldy. “To me, it looked more like a ball.
“I think of (Risedorph) as a father figure. He’s really inspiring to me.”
Dillion, who is also the son of Tom Lamb and twin brother to Garrett Weldy, was recognized during the second Strike Out Cancer Game.
NorthWood baseball has teamed with the Jason Motte Foundation the past two years to raise money and awareness to fight the disease.
“We had multiple moms dealing with cancer,” said Risedorph, noting that they had their names along with others connected to NorthWood and Bremen players signed on a banner.
With a heart for service and dedication to the job, Weldy served both basketball and baseball teams for four years and graduated from NorthWood on June 7.
On June 13, Dillion completed another graduation. He went to Camp Watcha-Wanna-Do (a free program for children with cancer and their family and friends at YMCA Camp Potawotami in LaGrange County) as a camper. He plans to return as a counselor.
Next up for Weldy is Indiana University East in Richmond, where he will be a men’s basketball manager in a Red Wolves program that features family friend Tyler Rigsby as an assistant coach.