STEPHEN HEMELT — Dedicated youth coach shares role in major player diagnosis
Published 11:12 pm Friday, September 8, 2023
Michael Searles originally got into coaching nine years ago because of his youngest daughter playing softball.
He coached her until she was 11 years old, then came his little boy, and “Coach Mike” started coaching him at 3 years old. He’s now 7, and Coach Mike has guided him every year in baseball and basketball.
“We share the same love for sports,” according to Coach Mike. “My passion for the game started from a young age. I played ball my whole life and still play ball today.”
Today he coaches with Orange Youth Baseball & Softball (OYBS) as well as leading select baseball team Stag.
Coach Mike’s caring and commitment to his players is known following almost a decade on the sideline and in the dugout. Yet, his care beyond the game and attention to detail took on more acclaim recently with a watchful eye over Barrett Williams.
“Barrett is one of the bravest boys I know,” Coach Mike said. “I met Barrett through the Stag’s select baseball, and we connected like peanut butter and jelly. Barrett is a very outgoing little dude. He is very respectful to me and his teammates. He is definitely dedicated, very driven and his love of baseball shows.”
The 8-year-old was going through drills Aug. 20 when Coach Mike noticed something off with his defensive approach.
“At first I thought he was scared of the ball just by the way he was moving and reacting when we would be doing field drills,” he said. “So, I continued to do different drills with him to see if it would help, but I noticed he was favoring his right side a lot more than normal. I told his Mom to do a quick eye test using her fingers. When she did, he failed multiple times. I then suggested to her that she bring him to get his eyes checked. She did that, he even got prescription glasses but that wasn’t correcting it.”
What followed was an emotional and stressful medical odyssey for Barrett and his family that includes MRIs, a spinal tap and a stay at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Thankfully, the family has some answers as Barrett was diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, a condition that occurs when pressure inside the skull increases for no obvious reason.
Barrett’s family has been told it is seen most commonly in obese women or older women. It is extremely rare for a young boy.
For now, doctors are treating Barrett with specific medication and cleared the little leaguer this week to return to physical activity; although, he must wear glasses at all times and remains sensitive to sunlight.
Barrett’s mom, Cryslynn Wolfford, recently posted a social media tribute to Coach Mike.
“As long as Barrett has played baseball, we have always been fortunate of amazing coaches,” she said. “However, Coach Mike will forever hold a special spot in mine, Barrett and Barrett’s dad’s hearts. HE saw something off with Barrett, HE knew something wasn’t right, we caught Barrett’s diagnosis early on because HE suggested I bring him to have his eyes checked.”
Hopefully for Barrett and his teammates, there are still plenty of days left to play in the sun.
Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes panews.com, The Port Arthur News and Greater Port Arthur The Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 409- 721-2445.