By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Brighton’s Will Dunlap tends to go wherever he is needed.
On Dec. 1, he was needed in the Brighton Gymnasium alongside childhood friend and Brighton Cardinal Baseball teammate Brett Wilkins. The duo were present in front, friends, family, coaches, teammates and Brighton administration for their signing to Volunteer State to join the Pioneer Baseball program.
“It’s a dream come true,” Dunlap said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since forever.”
Dunlap was joined on his signing day by family members parents Beverly and Billy Dunlap, aunt and uncle Rachel and Brent, cousins Ben and Kade, brother Sam and grandparents Dennis and Mary Dunlap.
Dunlap shared the spotlight with his duck hunting buddy Brett. Since middle school the pair of Cardinals dreamed on playing college baseball. Vol State Head Coach Rick Hunt was glad to make their dreams come true with an offer.
Hunt noted his desire to sign Dunlap came from the senior’s versatility.
“They’ve got the potential to get stronger and get used to the college game,” he said. “With the right development we can get them to the four-year level.
“Will is a utility guy, who can play any position,” Hunt added. “We’re going to mix him a little bit into the outfield and infield. We’re going to find where he fits best.”
Billy said Coach Hunt’s assessment of his son was not surprising.
“He did it when he was young,” he said. “If the guy playing shortstop was better than he was he would say, ‘Heck, well I’ll just go play second base. If the guy was better in left field, well I’ll just go play in right. If y’all don’t have a catcher, well I’ll catch just to keep from sitting.’”
Playing the game since he was 5 years old and for multiple traveling teams including the Memphis Tigers, Dunlap developed a variety of skills.
“When I was little I played a lot of infield,” Will recalled. “As I got older, high school you play where you’re needed. As I am need in the outfield, infield or pitching, I just want to be in the lineup wherever I can be to help the team.”
Brighton Head Coach Michael “Wick” Wickersham has gladly taken advantage of Dunlap versatile skill set. Dunlap and his classmates arrived on the Brighton campus the same time Coach Wick took the job. The veteran Skipper had a chance to teach his philosophy to Dunlap and his peers their entire high school tenure.
“Because at Brighton we have a job,” Dunlap said. “Every guy has a specific job on the field. Whether you’re playing right field or shortstop, you have a job. When a shortstop fields a ground ball and let’s say he throws it over the first baseman’s head. The right fielder has to be there or they’ll be running on you all day.”
Billy and Beverly said their son’s work ethic made it easy for him to bring Coach Wick’s philosophy to fruition.
”That was his goal,” Beverly said. “He wanted to go to college. He wanted to play baseball. It was that way starting in middle school. This is what he wanted to work toward.”
Wick said he is grateful to have a role in helping Dunlap reach his dream by believing in him and giving him chances to shine all around the Brighton diamond.
“This year is real important to me,” he said. “Not that all the other ones weren’t, but this is my first class. This is my freshmen class that has come all the way through. My seniors have been with us for four years. So it’s pretty exciting to see all of this.
“Will is going to hit in the middle of the lineup and he’s a leader,” Wick added. “He’s a flat out leader and he’s a ball player. He will ignite the dugout and he will ignite the infield. He will do everything possible to make sure we’re in the situation to win. He will also be in our pitching rotation. He’s one of those type of competitors – just give him the ball. He will be mostly in the outfield and in the middle of our lineup to win games.”
With unfinished business at Brighton, Dunlap is looking forward to one more year to contribute to the Cardinals. Then he is excited to continue his baseball career on the next level at a place where he is wanted.
“It feels good because sometimes you think, ‘Well he just doesn’t want me,’” Will concluded. “As a player that gets you down, your confidence goes down and everything goes down. When you know that you’re needed and wanted, it makes you ready to play ball.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.