BASEBALL: Volunteer of the Year: Little League awards PA American president high honor

Published 6:48 pm Saturday, July 14, 2018

Dwight Fobbs looked at the Little League field at Pioneer Park and envisioned improvements he wants to make.

It’s just how the president of the Port Arthur American Little League thinks, given the improvements he’s already made to the ballpark over the past nine years at that position.

“We moved up here after the first year,” the 59-year-old Sabal Transport truck driver recalled. “The fence was leaning, no concession stand, no restrooms, no nothing.”

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After finding new volunteers and board members, Fobbs then solicited donations for baseball uniforms and had a volunteer pitch the league to public schools.

“We had junk,” he said. “Four of them might have had a dark blue jersey, and two of them might have had the White Sox. We were charging zero. We weren’t charging anything at the time.”

Today, his wife of 24 years, Jada, manages the concession stand at the park, located between Christus Southeast Texas St. Mary and St. James Catholic Church on Ninth Avenue. Dwight and Jada have raised four children and have six grandchildren.

“People have no idea the sacrifice from his family it takes,” former Memorial boys basketball coach and PAALL president Kenneth Coleman said. “Even the people who have their kids involved, they have no idea of the sacrifice. That’s how I know it’s a calling from God.”

Jessie Riojas has helped with PAALL since first becoming Memorial’s baseball coach seven years ago.

“Whenever I got on, we had many people come and approach and meet me, but he was one of the very first ones to meet with me [when I first came],” Riojas said.

“I saw the passion he has. We hit it off. We’ve always had a great relationship. Anything he needed form us, we stopped and did it for those kids. He was one of those he wanted to learn. We did coaching clinics for their Little League teams, going on for five or six years. We did a camp for Little League. We did it at my field and we do it at their field. We do it for free.”

Riojas said he’s been drawn “real close” to Fobbs because of the love he has for the kids.

“He gives every ounce of his spare time,” Riojas said. “He’s almost like one of us coaches. We don’t do it for the money. We do it for the passion.”


High honor for a high calling

Little League International has taken notice of Fobbs’ passion.

The governing body, whose featured event is the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, every August, has awarded Fobbs the Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award. Fobbs said a local Little League district administrator nominated him for the honor.

“I thought someone was playing a joke on me at first,” Fobbs said. “I didn’t even respond to the email or anything. And, then, finally, I called the guy [Urban Initiative director Demiko Ervin] back, and he told me it wasn’t a joke.”

In fact, Ervin visited PAALL about two months ago.

“It was surprising,” Fobbs said of the award. “It was touching to me that someone would pay attention to what’s going on in the community because I’m not doing it for any awards. I’m doing it because it’s a calling that’s on my life for us to help young boys.”


Basketball beginnings

A Silsbee native and Port Arthur resident since 1993, Fobbs became a volunteer with the Valid Sons, which aims to help boys and young men develop mentally, physically and spiritually, by his description. Valid Sons takes a field trip to one business each month to learn what it takes to obtain a position there.

“The biggest thrill I got out of it was a guy named Jack,” he said.

Jack was a basketball player at Memorial seeking to gain eligibility after bouncing around different states and not doing well academically. David Green, who was recently hired as Beaumont United’s first head boys basketball coach after a run at North Shore in the Galena Park ISD, was Memorial’s coach at the time and had mentored Jack.

“We took him and led him to the Lord,” Fobbs said. “His hearing came up four days later.”

Fobbs had Jack show the Valid Sons how he turned around his academic performance through the program.

“You’re going to start walking from the end of this table,” Fobbs recalled telling Jack. “It was 12 of them. You’re going to show these Fs and zeros. When you turn around, you’re going to say, when you met coach Green, and he made such an inspiration in my life, you start giving these 80s and 90s.

“He came back about 2:30 that afternoon. ‘Coach Fobbs!’ [Jack yelled.] I said, ‘Boy, what’s wrong?’

“He say, ‘Everybody cried!’ We got him reinstated. That’s when I knew then we could make a difference in a young man’s life.”

Fobbs’ ability to touch lives was nothing new to Green.

“When we were growing up in Silsbee — we were about a couple of years younger — he would get us together and teach us how to do organized football,” Green said. “It kind of united us as young kids and motivated us to play.”

The next year, Fobbs became president of PAALL, taking over for Coleman.

“Port Arthur didn’t even have Little League baseball for 10 years,” Coleman said. “God placed it in my heart to get something started. Me and Brother Fobbs got it started.”

Aside from the honor from the Urban Initiative, running a league can be a thankless job, according to Coleman.

“It’s so much he has to do, and he still takes criticism,” the recently hired Humble Summer Creek head coach said. “I am extremely happy he’s being honored by it. It’s a thankless job. He goes beyond the call of duty.”


Going to South Williamsport

As part of his honor, Fobbs and his wife will visit South Williamsport Aug. 14-20. The Little League World Series is scheduled for Aug. 16-26, with games usually airing on the ESPN networks and ABC.

Fobbs will take part in a parade and be presented with an award during his stay, although he was unsure of particular dates for those events.

“I’ll ask a lot of questions with coaches and administrators,” Fobbs said. “I want to gain some insight and bring it back to Port Arthur.”

Fobbs’ own insight has changed a league, and he isn’t done.

He plans to build a T-ball field behind third base of the Little League field and add a Senior League field for players ages 13-16. He’s applying for a grant to help achieve this.

To him, volunteerism isn’t all about introducing a child to baseball. He’d like to see Port Arthur invest more in the league.

“It costs $145,000 to rehabilitate a child once he gets in the prison system,” he said. “If I save 10 kids, that’s $1.45 million. There’s no reason why Port Arthur can’t invest in an indoor practice facility for the amount of boys in our program.”

Fobbs’ never-quit attitude strikes a chord with Riojas.

“Him getting this award, it couldn’t have happened to a better man,” he said. “I’m doing cartwheels in my mind. That’s a true testament of people in Port Arthur.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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