Jason Schilling had such an impact on his Dallas High School baseball teammates that his memory is guiding them through their current season.
Schilling was an outfielder for the Dallas High School baseball team for three years. His jersey - No. 31 - was not issued to any player for this season and his teammates will hang the jersey in the dugout every time it plays a game.
A 2012 graduate of Dallas High School, Schilling died Dec. 1, 2012, when the automobile he was driving crashed into a tree on Carpenter Road in Dallas. His friends have created a living memorial at the tree.
Prior to the Mountaineers’ game against Lake-Lehman last week, members of the team invited Schilling’s family to be part of a sideline ceremony where they were presented with a framed t-shirt made to look like a Dallas High School baseball jersey with the No. 31 on it. The jersey has Schilling’s initials and the initials of Ron Noyalis on the sleeve. Noyalis, father of former DHS baseball standout Marc Noyalis, was killed last year while clearing trees.
Jim and Susan Schilling and their son, Stephen, were all on hand at the informal ceremony.
“It was very emotional,” Jim Schilling said a few days later. “To me, it’s clearly a testament to the kids and the coaching staff. The gesture speaks to the goodness in their hearts and the compassion they have for Jason.”
Schilling admitted that being present at the Lake-Lehman baseball field was difficult for him and his family but couldn’t say enough about his son’s baseball teammates.
“They all gathered around us and patted us on the back,” he remembered. “It was very moving, very memorable.
“The reality of it is that he is no longer with us,” Schilling continued, fighting back tears. “But these kids have made it their cause to keep him with them and they have brought some sunshine into our lives.”
Schilling also reported that team members sold stickers with his son’s inititals on them an to players who wanted to wear them on their batting helmets. The more than $100 raised was donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen, an organization near and dear to Jason Schilling’s heart.
“When Jason died, we requested donations be made to the soup kitchen,” said Schilling, noting that he had presented four pages of names of people who donated and received the nicest letter about Jason and how respectful he always was when volunteering at the soup kitchen.
The Schilling family is reminded every day of the number of lives touched by Jason and Jim Schilling recounted a conversation he had with his son on their way to a Penn State football game a few years ago.
“We talked about someone who was having a party and Jason told me he would never be able to have a party,” Jim said. “I told him I found that hard to believe but he said he was friends with so many people that if he invited them all to a party, it would be a total disaster because it would not be a good mix.”
Schilling cherishes the memory and knows the affinity his son had for all kinds of people, remembering Jason’s infectious smile and the dimples that would show on his face whenever he flashed that smile.
About the unveiling of the framed baseball jersey, Schilling said, “It takes us back to the loss but when we see how many lives Jason touched, it gives us comfort.”
Dallas High School baseball coach Ken Kashatus called Schilling the team’s Renaissance Man.
“You could have an adult conversation with him about more than just school and baseball,” Kashatus said. “We talked about movies, music and restaurants. I like all those things and it was easy to engage Jason in a conversation about any of them. Thats what made him different from a lot of the guys I coach.”