WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: I went because of Michael Jackson

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

I decided to go to a Sherman Bearcat baseball game earlier this spring. It was sunny, breezy and COVID restrictions seem to be lifting, so the time felt right. I like baseball, but that wasn’t the real reason I traveled to the new high school complex.

I went because of Michael Jackson.

No, not the 1980s singer/entertainer; but the young SHS baseball player whose life was cut short by a horrific accident. It’s been more than 30 years ago now since that fateful day. Michael was a junior preparing for a new baseball season coming that spring of 1991. The one car accident will forever be etched in the minds of those who witnessed it and/or attended Sherman High.

Baseball was so important to Michael that he was buried in his uniform; and he was so important to SHS baseball that his Number 5 was retired. There was a plaque memorializing his time on the diamond for the Bearcats erected at Veteran’s Field, the home of the Sherman team for decades.

Until the plans for the new high school included a sports complex on the same grounds; plans that showed a new baseball field along side a new softball field. Construction continues on other projects in the area; the fields will be neatly tucked inside the complex when all is done and complete.

I walked around the shiny stands and peered into the modern dugouts. The artificial turf looked sharp and fast. There is a small press box; and the scoreboard is complete with all the latest technology. The maroon wall borders the outfield. It is a proper edifice to ‘America’s pastime.’

I was looking at the current roster banners, each player had one, when I stopped short. On the end was a throwback picture and the familiar No. 5 on a player. It was Michael in all his glory during his sophomore year as shortstop – the last year there were pictures of him in action. The banner proclaimed his No. 5 was retired; and you got the sense that this banner would always accompany the current team at the field.

The plan is for the plaque from Veteran’s Field to be moved to the new complex; probably next year, according to school district officials. There might even be a rededication ceremony; that would be so great, in my humble opinion! I never got to meet Michael, of course, but I know and have met people who did. He was a special person and a dedicated teammate and ball player.

“Everyone just loved Michael; he was a special kid,” said Chad Estes, a childhood friend. “I think he would still be impacting people in baseball or something like that now; he was that kind of person. What a loss; I miss him.”

“I just loved him; he was exactly the type of player I loved to coach,” said Michael’s coach Howard Hererra, with a catch in his voice. “He did not lack for effort or enthusiasm; he respected the game and played hard all the time.”

Of course, Michael’s parents – Lamar and Beverly – are among his biggest supporters.

“This is just what Michael did; he was confident. He didn’t lord it over you,” explained Lamar. “But he never lacked in confidence; and he wanted to instill it in everyone he met.”

One welcomed outcome for their loss is how the Sherman community has embraced their son.

“People have really remembered Michael,” said Lamar. “It seems it has made them think more about their own lives and choices.”

“It is the uplifting part; the love kindled by Michael still lives today,” said Beverly.

One of Michael’s best friends is Alan McDougal, the head baseball coach at Colleyville Heritage High School. A 16 year veteran of coaching won the Class 5A State Championship in 2019.

“I would have loved to have had him in the stands, but I have to settle with wearing his No. 5 jersey that day,” said McDougal who grew up in Sherman. “When I put on that jersey, Michael comes with me; he is with me on the field. It did my heart proud.”

McDougal said he often thinks of that day and that time in his life.

“Everyone involved still has those memories seared in their minds,” he noted. “My life has been directed by what happened that day; and in a lot of ways, still is. It was such an incredibly tragic time, but Michael is still with us every time we remember.”

It is easy to say I felt Michael’s presence that day at the new field. The Bearcats lost the game, but that doesn’t diminish the history and honor of a player who put his all into his team and his sport. As time goes on, I plan to go back to catch a game; to hear the crack of the bat and to remember those who came before.

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.