BULLARD — High school and middle school softball players were on the field working on their fundamentals Sunday afternoon at the Bullard softball and baseball fields.
Usually, Bullard High School head softball coach Megan Dobrinski is the one providing the instruction when softball players are on the field in Bullard.
However, Dobrinski — a former standout at Brownsboro and All Saints who is nicknamed “Smiley” — was recently diagnosed with cancer and is currently in the hospital.
That led to Lindale head softball coach Meredith Grant, Bullard coach/teacher Nanci Dixon and Tyler Junior College head softball coach Maria Winn-Ratliff, along with other East Texas softball coaches, to come together to put on the “Cancer Picked the Wrong Coach” softball clinic.
“She’s a sister to me,” said Grant, who coached Dobrinski in both high school and college. “If it were me in this situation, she would be right there doing the same. It makes me emotional to think about it. We just all want to lift her up and hopefully lift her spirits. We want her to know that we’re fighting with her. I know she would give anything to be out here with us.”
“When we were trying to figure out ways to help her and her family, we thought what better way than with softball,” said Dixon, whose daughters Destinee and Jolee have both played for Dobrinski. “She’s given us so much, and we wanted to give back to her through softball.”
More than 80 girls grades six through 12 were at the event on Sunday. Most of the participants were from East Texas, but some came from as far away as Beaumont and Deweyville.
“It’s amazing,” Grant said. “I drove up today, and all of the coaches and kids starting coming in, and I just got goose bumps thinking about all of the support and all of the people that have rallied around this. It’s just amazing to see all of the people that have come out to be a part of it.”
Money was raised through donations, and they also sold T-shirts prior to Sunday. There were also multiple concession choices that were provided by Dobrinski’s church, First United Methodist Church Chandler.
Coaches from both the collegiate and high school levels were there to help with the instruction. Among those coaches were Winn-Ratliff and her assistant Eric Henderson, UT Tyler head coach Mike Reed and his assistant coach Whitney Wyly, Stephen F. Austin State University head coach Nicole Dickson and her staff, Galveston College head coach Christa Hartnett Wallace (a former UT Tyler standout), Tyler Lee head coach Justin Kniffen, Grand Saline head coach Marc Chitty, Jacksonville head coach Brittney Batten, Brook Hill head coach Anthony Springer, Hughes Springs head coach Tisha Thompson and more.
“I think it speaks volumes of who she is in the Tyler/Bullard/East Texas area,” Winn-Ratliff said. “I think it is absolutely amazing what our community will do for someone that is so special. It’s definitely a tragedy that her and her family are having to go through this, but it’s great seeing these young ladies and their families out here to support her.”
“Today is a testament to the impact Coach Dobrinski has had on so many people’s lives,” Reed said. “To meet Coach Dobrinski is to love Coach Dobrinski, and there is no place I would rather be than out here today showing support for her and her fight.”
“Coach D and I go way back,” said Dickson, who was the head coach at TJC before going to SFA. “We actually met at the University of Texas at Austin softball camp in the sixth or seventh grade. We have a similar story. We met at camp, played travel ball against each other growing up, both played JUCO and both played D2. She’s just been a good friend of mine since then. She’s someone I respect, and I love and care about her family, which is why I’m here today.”
Players rotated through multiple stations during the clinic. On the softball field was the hitting instruction, while defensive instruction was provided at the baseball field.
Two of Dobrinski’s current players — Claire Cannon and Payton Hancock — were at the clinic, along with Grand Saline senior shortstop Sarah Elliott.
“It’s amazing to know how many people she has touched and to see how many people have come to support her,” Cannon said.
“It shows how much everyone loves her and supports her,” Hancock said. “She means the world to me. I came in my freshman year never having played third base in my life, and she worked with me every day and was determined to have me play third.”
“My coach is a good friend of her, and it’s been a big awareness around our town,” Elliott said. “A lot of our softball girls are here. It’s a big deal.”
“It’s great to be out here and see all of these people that came out to help support her,” Bullard assistant softball coach Marissa Ledkins said. “This was my first job right out of college, and she took me in as one of her own.”