Ap­pren­tice plays against men­tor

McDonough grad­u­ate, now St. Charles head coach Zayas re­unites with former coach Ly­don on di­a­mond

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com Twit­ter: tblack­somds1

The typ­i­cal rou­tine meet­ing of base­ball coaches to ex­change lineup cards at home plate was any­thing but mun­dane on April 3 when St. Charles High School first-year head coach and McDonough High School alum Robby Zayas greeted Rams head coach Mike Ly­don at Lau­rel Springs Re­gional Park in La Plata.

Zayas not only played four sea­sons for Ly­don at McDonough, he was also a mem­ber of the South­ern Mary­land Mariners travel team that Ly­don coached. Zayas, who went on to play for Sal­is­bury Univer­sity, oc­cu­pied the same role as lead­off bat­ter and cen­ter fielder for Ly­don on both squads and April 3 the ap­pren­tice had the chance to meet his men­tor for the first time ap­proach­ing from op­pos­ing dugouts.

“It was sur­real,” Zayas said of meet­ing with Ly­don at home plate and ex­chang­ing lineup cards with his former coach. “I learned a lot about the game play­ing for coach Ly­don when I was in high school and even be­fore the game the other day he was giv­ing me some ad­vice on base­ball. He’s al­ways teach­ing his play­ers, his as­sis­tant coaches and now even one of his former play­ers.”

McDonough, which reached the Class 1A North Re­gion fi­nal last year be­fore fall­ing to Pat­ter­son Mill of Har­ford County, even­tu­ally coasted to a 12-1 vic­tory over St. Charles at Lau­rel Springs, the new home field for the Spar­tans who had opened the sea­son by play­ing home games at Thomas Stone High School. When Zayas played for McDonough, St. Charles, the new­est pub­lic school in Charles County, was not open and the Spar­tans pro­gram is still in its in­fancy.

“When Robby played for me at McDonough and for the Mariners, he was al­ways a fun-lov­ing kid,” Ly­don said. “He wasn’t one of those real in­tense guys. He liked to have fun when he played. I think his claim to fame was when he hit that home run off Daryl Thomp­son [now with the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs] his se­nior year.”

When the two came out to ex­change lineup cards at home plate, Zayas re­minded Ly­don that he still had the same play­book his former coach had given him when he was with the Rams. To the men­tor, that was per­haps the great­est com­pli­ment of all.

“When he told me that he still used that play­book, that re­ally hit home,” Ly­don said. “It’s been 12, 13 years since he played for me at McDonough and he’s still got the same play­book I gave him and he uses it to teach his kids. That says a lot of about him that he al­ways wanted to learn. He’s still learn­ing and his kids will learn a lot from him.”

L ydon and Zayas con­sid­ered the out­come of the first game between them to be sec­ondary to the oc­ca­sion. McDonough — which slipped to 8-2 after be­ing blanked 3-0 by North­ern on Tues­day in a South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cross­over con­test — is among the peren­nial pow­ers among Charles County teams in the SMAC, while St. Charles (2-7 after an 8-3 loss to North Point on Wed­nes­day) is still very much in its in­fancy.

“What im­pressed me the most about watch­ing Robby coach­ing dur­ing the game was that he never got up­set and he never yelled at one of his play­ers,” Ly­don said. “They’re a young team and a fairly new pro­gram. Ev­ery kid knows when he makes a mis­take. You don’t have to call him out on the field for it. Robby was very up­beat and very pos­i­tive.”

When the teams meet again on April 26 at McDonough the con­test will mark a home­com­ing of sorts for Zayas, who played for the Rams be­fore they in­stalled per­ma­nent dugouts and planted Ber­muda grass in the in­field. The other no­table dif­fer­ence for Zayas will be that he will have to watch and coach from the vis­it­ing dugout for the first time.

“It’s go­ing to bring back a lot of mem­o­ries, I’m sure,” Zayas said of his pend­ing re­turn to his high school alma mater. “I don’t think too much has changed down there in the 12 years since I played there. I’m look­ing for­ward to walk­ing back onto the field and see­ing coach Ly­don again at home plate. He’s al­ways very sup­port­ive, no mat­ter what team I’m coach­ing or what team I’m coach­ing against.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO

St. Charles High School first-year head base­ball coach Robby Zayas, cen­ter, con­verses with McDonough base­ball coach Mike Ly­don, right, prior to last week’s con­test. Zayas played at McDonough for Ly­don from 2002 to 2005 and also with the South­ern Mary­land Mariners travel team.

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