HEBRON, Ky. — Conner High School baseball coach Brad Arlinghaus was attending the Thursday funeral of a former student, 25-year-old Dallas Willoughby, when his phone began to light up with text messages. Checking them, he saw his team’s battered dugout blowing across Cougar Path.
Opening day is Monday.
Instead of being upset, however, Arlinghaus said he prefers to view the situation as a positive one — maybe even serendipitous.
“It’s Dallas’s last gift to Conner baseball,” he said. “We’ll get a new dugout out of it. He was up there, he was working for us. He knew how bad our dugouts were.”
Willoughby graduated from Conner in 2011, but his impact on the baseball program was enormous, Arlinghaus said. Likewise, his sudden death March 9 was a blow to the team.
“Always happy, always smiling,” Arlinghaus said of Willoughby. “I had him in class as a freshman, asked him if he wanted to help with baseball.”
Willoughby claimed then to be more of a football fan, but tracking baseball stats became an unexpected passion. He would spend three years as the team’s manager before graduating, and he kept in touch with his coach long afterward.
“That was his life,” Arlinghaus said. “He loved it.”
As for his so-called last gift, the team is confident they can have a new dugout in place in time for their season opener.
“What’s most impressive is the community support,” Arlinghaus said. “I’ve had three people today that have said they can have it built by Monday.”