When Ryan Dyer last year was asked to take on the task of trying to rebuild a dying Scottsdale Coronado baseball program, the former state champion coach accepted on one condition:
That then-freshman Justin Huttelston would be his assistant.
Huttelston and Dyer quickly bonded last year when Dyer had Huttelston in his adaptive physical education class. Dyer looked past the fact that Huttelston was bound to an electric wheelchair and had trouble speaking because of muscular dystrophy.
“He is the biggest fan you ever met,” Dyer said. “He loves baseball. We talked baseball. He heard the AD (then David Huffine) talk to me about rebuilding the program. That’s how it started.
“I said, ‘If we do this, Justin is going to be my right-hand man.’ I saw the light in his eyes.”
Huttelston’s tasks include bringing out the game ball and taking the lineup card to the umpire before games. He also breaks down the huddle with, “One, two, three, Dons!”
“The whole game he’s telling me what to do,” Dyer said.
“We’ve been doing this for quite a while now,” Huttelston said with Dyer interpreting. “It’s really special to me.”
Coronado uses the handicap-accessible bus to games to accommodate Huttelston.
“It was great for Justin, but I also think it was great for the kids on the team, as well,” said Huffine, who is now the athletic director at Mesa High. “It demonstrates what Coach Dyer is really all about.”
Last week, at Chase Field, before a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks handed the Coronado baseball and softball teams a check for $10,000, a “Chase Your Dreams” grant that will be split between the baseball and softball programs.
When Huttelston found out he was going to be part of the pre-game ceremony, he couldn’t sleep for two weeks, Dyer said.
“He engages well,” Dyer said. “It puts everything in perspective for both the players and me.”