Dugger gives from the heart

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   In society we have people of all different life styles and successes. There are talented lawyers, doctors, teachers, ministers, and a variety of other people who succeed at their life's endeavors.
   For Richard 'Jar Fly' Dugger, the talents bestowed upon him by God has been one that he has enjoyed tremendously over the years and now is one that he tries to pass out to others as his thanks to God who gave it.
   'Jar Fly' was hooked on the game of softball as a youth at the age of 14 playing for East Side Baptist Church for a toughed-nose, ex-Marine coach by the name of Baldy Bullock.
   "Softball was a game I really wanted to play," said Dugger. "I really wanted to pitch, but I was too young and too small at the time to do so."
   Dugger played a mean centerfield and could play about anywhere the coach placed him. It was no coincidence that when Jar Fly answered the call of his country in 1966 to military duty, softball was a mainstay that helped carry him through his duty.
   Said Dugger: "When I came back to Elizabethton in 1970, my love for the game really blossomed playing with guys here at Cherokee Park and on the road. I learned how to pitch in the service and when I came back here I had the pleasure of playing with some great players including Willie Malone, Wes Holly, Rusty Barnett, Sam Bradshaw, and one of my best friends, Scotty Bunton."
   Finding a good sponsor was a hard thing to do in Elizabethton at the time so Dugger and Bunton teamed up and hit the road as a left-handed pitcher and catcher combination traveling to West Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and even Pennsylvania.
   They ended up in Shelby, NC for seven years where they were a part of a State and District champion in fastpitch softball as well as finishing third in the nation in one of their seasons there.
   "I got tired of the traveling couple of years ago," stated Dugger. "I still loved the game, but just couldn't take the traveling anymore."
   What Dugger didn't realize was that his name was as synomous with fastpitch softball as Pepsi is to the Cola family here in Carter County.
   On April 1, 2001 Tennessee State Trooper Mark Musick contacted Dugger about the possibility of helping his daughter, Ryann, improve her softball pitching skills. What really got Dugger's juices flowing was the fact that Ryann was a south paw just like himself.
   "I had been helping some girls off and on over the years like Kim Holly," said Dugger. "I knew that God had blessed me with this ability and I agreed to help Ryann."
   What started off as one now has grown to 16 players that Dugger has taken under his tutelage on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
   Stated Dugger: "Ryann and I had worked pretty hard and all of a sudden other girls begin coming. Pitchers Sally Taylor, Jessica Robinson, and Brittany Smith as well as catchers Megan Heaton and Ashley Sell are all part of my 13-14 advanced age group that meets on Sundays from 12:30-3:30 PM."
   "I also have some younger pitchers that get together on Saturday's at the Black Bottom softball field for lessons. Hannah and Kamra Fritz, Leah Henson, Whitney McNeil, Kelly Culler, Brittany Jenkins, and Jessica Grear are some of the younger 9-12 age group I work with."
   'Jar Fly' is very adamant about one thing before he takes on teaching the basics of the game to any girl.
   "I will not take money for my time because God has given this too me and I want to give back some of what he has given me," said Dugger. "I only ask that the girls come serious because if they aren't serious then they are wasting their time as well as mine."
   Girls should not expect to become pitching aces overnight either as it takes basically one year for a girl to get down the simple basics of pitching and then it takes a lot of serious practice for continuing improvement.
   Dugger gave an amazing stat involving a girls success at pitching fastpitch softball.
   "When parents and kids come to practice the success of their child hinges 70 percent on the parent, 20 percent on the girl, and 10 percent on me," stated Dugger. "I can't make the girls do it. It takes the parents pushing them toward success, telling the girls when they do really well as well as when they are doing really bad."
   Dugger goes on to add: "These girls are doing something that only two percent of the population can do and that is pitch fastpitch softball."
   'Jar Fly' believes that the girls he is working with now have the makings to be excellent pitchers. His greatest reward from all the labor of love he gives is when he watches these same young ladies stand on the mound pitching for their teams, be it a little league game or a high school game.
   "These girls are the light of my life right now," says Dugger. "I have also found out from many of the parents that their relationships with their daughters have improved as a result of them working together on our lessons."
   There is an old adage that behind every successful man, there is a successful woman. That holds true in 'Jar Fly' Dugger's life as well.
   "My wife, Karen, is such a super wife," stated Dugger. "She backs me every step of the way and supports this effort as well. Matter of factly, she and I have arguments over these girls and their performances."
   Dugger feels that his main objective is to help these girls improve their skills to the level where they can obtain college scholarships after their high school years are finished. Also, since girls softball is a sport that is here to stay, Dugger wants to see the leagues get stronger and stronger through instruction on how softball is really suppose to be pitched.
   It would go without saying that when Dugger meets his creator that God would have a hard time telling 'Jar Fly' that he hasn't used the talents bestowed upon him.
   As a matter of fact, the reward that Dugger receives for his giving back to his community, especially the young ladies he has helped inspire, will be greater than any payment he could receive in this life.