Beating the odds
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Handicap. In the world of sports, the word refers to a method of offsetting the abilities of an athlete. Off the field of play, it refers to a physical or mental disadvantage.
Eleven-year-old Dalton Henagan doesn’t believe in either version of the term.
Dalton, a pitcher on the baseball mound, offensive and defensive lineman on the football field, and a state-champion bowler, doesn’t remember a time when he had the use of both of his arms. He lost most of his right limb to amputation after a lawnmower accident when he was only three years old. But, none of that matters to Dalton. He just does what comes naturally, which is play all manner of sports.
“I’m about to try out for basketball next week,” Dalton said Tuesday. “I play baseball and football, but my basketball tryouts are next week.”
Dalton’s mom, Theresa Watts, said her son hasn’t let what many would consider a disadvantage phase him at all.
“He plays at least two sports at any given time of the year,” she said. “Baseball ends in May, but summer bowling begins in June.”
Watts said Dalton, who attends Straughn Middle School, has been blessed with a great group of teachers, students and fellow-athletes to help him in his many activities.
“He started at Straughn in fourth grade,” she said. “They were really receptive off him. He has a great support group.
“With sports, everything just comes naturally to him. He didn’t start baseball until last year.”
But while baseball and football keep him active, Dalton said bowling is still his favorite sport.
“I was probably about eight (when I started bowling),” Dalton said. “It’s just fun to do; it helps me with my scholarships, really.”
And those scholarships, which Dalton has accumulated through bowling wins with the Saturday morning youth and adult league, are adding up.
“I’ve got over $500 worth of scholarships,” he said.
“He won state the first year he bowled,” Watts added. “The tournament we went to a couple of months ago, he was in a doubles tournament and that’s when his third game was a (score of) 278. He had all strikes and one spare, which is a clean game in bowling.”
While Dalton seems to have no problems with self-motivation, Watts said she likes to point out athletes like Jim Abbott, a former major-league pitcher who played despite having only one hand, to her son for inspiration.
Dalton, she said, typically ends up becoming the inspiration himself.
“People come up to me all the time,” Watts said. “He works twice as hard to kind of prove himself and that’s what motivates him.”
Watts said just last Friday night, Dalton met Bailey Lewis, an Andalusia Elementary School student who lost her arm in an accident last year. But, it is anyone in need, she said, who gets her son’s attention. Dalton has also been working to raise money for local cancer patients Cooper Sasser and Bailey Byrd.
“We bag groceries,” she said. “We’re both part of Cooper’s Crew. We both volunteer and help raise money for local people.”
But Dalton explained his many activities, both on and off of the field, the best – and very simplistically.
“I just want to help people,” he said with a shrug.
Whether he realizes it or not, Watts says, her son’s bravery alone has likely helped more people in just 11 years than he will ever realize – and year 12 starts next month.
Dalton is the son of Theresa and Kevin Watts of Heath.