(ROCKWALL, TX — May 1, 2019) If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Rockwall High School softball game, there’s a couple things you can always expect: the girls will play their hearts out, and they’ll be cheered on by one Eugene Wesley, a man affectionately known as “Pawpaw” to the team, the coach and most everyone joining him in the stands on game day.
“A lot of the kids don’t know my real name,” Wesley said. “They just know me as Pawpaw.”
For the past seven seasons, the soon-to-be 83 year old has not once missed a home softball game. In fact, he’s only missed a few tournaments and very few away games for seven years. He has never been late for a softball game and is usually one of the first ones there.
“I’m here at this ballfield all the time,” Wesley said.
The “Pawpaw” nickname started when his granddaughter, Whitney Wesley, first began playing softball for the Yellowjackets as a freshman seven years ago. She would always call him “Pawpaw” and it soon caught on with the rest of her teammates, coaches and parents.
“Someone at one of the softball tournaments once asked me which player my granddaughter was,” Wesley said. “And I told him, ‘Every single one of them.’”
Wesley was a standout baseball and softball player himself for 40 years. He grew up in Oklahoma, and it was softball that brought him to Dallas in 1958, when he played a couple years on the upper class Statler Hilton Hotel softball squad before changing over to the Dallas Sportsman Fastpitch softball squad. After his many years playing ball for Dallas Sportsman, he became a journeyman in the sport, playing for whatever team wanted him. During his long career in the sport, he played outfield, third base and shortstop.
Wesley said he’s a huge fan of the game of softball, but what really keeps him coming back game after game is the comradery he receives from everyone.
“I really enjoy the kids coming around to give me a hug and calling me ‘Pawpaw’. That just makes my day,” Wesley said. “I just love the game, love the kids, and love the family.”
And the Rockwall people love their “Pawpaw” too. Wesley said every time he arrives at a game he’s always greeted with a warm welcome from parents, coaches and kids alike. They’ll occasionally buy his game ticket for him, or meet him at the gate to carry his cushioned stadium seat for him to his designated spot in the stands, right behind home plate.
“The people in Rockwall have been real good to me,” Wesley said.
Last year, the RHS softball team began a new tradition inviting their “Pawpaw” out to throw the first pitch on Senior Night.
“That was a great experience,” Wesley said. “I played ball for a long time, so the pitch wasn’t shaky or anything. All the kids walked me to the mound and back. I really enjoyed it.”
Wesley said Senior Nights are always special but a little bittersweet.
“It’s kind of sad because my senior girls have to leave me and some of them I’ll never see again,” he said. “Very few come back, but when they do, they know where I’m at.”
One thing’s for certain: if the Rockwall Yellowjackets are competing on the diamond, their “Pawpaw” will be there with camera in hand, cheering on his beloved “grandkids”.
“At my age, nothing’s a guarantee. But I’m going to keep coming to games as long as I possibly can,” Wesley said.
Story and photo by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.
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