BISMARCK — Mark Dodd couldn’t get away much this past spring.
The football coach and baseball coach at Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin High School devotes countless hours to the Blue Devils.
Sacrifices time apart from his family. All in the pursuit of making BHRA athletes better.
Which this past spring, coincided with BHRA football and baseball seasons running one right after another.
But the veteran coach slipped away from Vermilion County in late February, making a nine-hour drive to Fayetteville, Ark.
All in an effort to see his son, Dylan, take the mound for the Southeast Missouri State baseball team during a road game against No. 2 Arkansas.
The 23-year-old left-hander has undoubtedly made his dad and mom, Thea, beam a little more this past week. Getting drafted during the third round of the MLB draft with the 96th overall pick to the Atlanta Braves will do that.
But watching Dylan pitch on a cool, cloudy Thursday afternoon against the tradition-rich Razorbacks brought the tough-nosed ball coach to tears.
“I talked to his mom on the long drive there and said, ‘This could put Dylan on the map, because you’re going against one of the best teams in the country,’” Mark recalled this week. “We snuck out of the seats they assigned us in the right-field bullpen, and we tried to be quiet sitting, between home plate and first base because we were surrounded by Arkansas fans. They can get a bit rowdy. He was pitching well and in the sixth inning, he had the bases loaded with two outs. He struck out the last batter, and a group of Arkansas fans turned towards us, because we were making some noise and we were pretty excited. These fans looked up at us and yelled at me, and I’m thinking, ‘Uh, oh, this could be bad.’ But all they said was, ‘Hey, your kid is really good.’ That was a very, very fun moment.”
Dodd and his SEMO teammates didn’t get the win that day, with Arkansas rallying for a 6-5 victory in 10 innings. But 10 strikeouts by Dodd set him up for the outstanding season he had in becoming the first-ever BHRA graduate to get picked in the MLB draft and the highest-drafted player in SEMO history.
It’s the ultimate reward for Dylan, obviously. And showing, too, that you can multiple sports in high school and still go pro. He was a standout receiver and defensive back for the Blue Devils’ football team and a quality contributor on the basketball court.
The moment means more to those who watched it all unfold.
“For him, there were a lot of sacrifices, too, growing up and in junior high,” Mark said. “Your friends are going to a pool party in June, and he’s in the car for a ride to Champaign for a practice.”
Mark missed out on some of those moments. Of course, the flip side is he was able to coach Dylan in both football and baseball with the Blue Devils. That wasn’t always the easiest situation, though, for both Dodds. Dylan’s younger brother, Dawson, is experiencing it now. He’s about to start his senior season as BHRA’s quarterback and also starts on the Blue Devils’ baseball team.
“It’s never easy being the coach’s kid,” Mark said. “I’ve been very lucky in that both my boys, we’ve always had a good relationship. I know not all dads that are coaches can say that. We tried to pretty much leave the coaching and the talk on the field. We just tried to be dad and son at home. I think we’ve managed that pretty well.”
Dylan will leave the comfort of his family soon, sign a contract with the Braves and begin his pro baseball journey.
Mark said he’s not sure if Dylan will get assigned to a Class A affiliate with the Braves later this summer or work out at their spring training facility in North Port, Fla., instead. He did throw 96 2/3 innings this season for the Redhawks, compiling a 9-2 record and 3.17 earned run average
Whenever Dylan does make his first pro start, Mark wants to be there. In person.
If he can’t because he’s coaching, he’ll make do. The scenario has happened in the past and will again.
On Monday night, the Dodd family celebrated Dylan’s historic accomplishment. By Tuesday morning, Mark was back in the weight room at BHRA with his football team.
“Dylan understands,” Mark said. “He’s done it a lot, and he doesn’t need me there. He never really has.”
“I’m not saying I won’t check my phone regularly to get his stats,” Mark said with a laugh. “We all just feel very, very blessed.”