Bob Boyd believes in the division of time: work, family, free. There are the hours he spends in his office at the Department of Defense. There are the evenings and weekends he devotes to his four children, Bobby, Bailey, Brooke and Brady, and his wife, Nancy.
Then there is the free time, the one that becomes the most valuable after 27 years of a 9-to-5 job plus the responsibilities of raising a family.
Ten years ago, Boyd found his calling — the thing that made him happy in those coveted spare hours—as a coach for the Olney Boys and Girls Club Cougars softball team. He has found peace on the diamond by helping to spread his love of the sport to his daughter, Bailey, and her teammates.
And at the same time he has supported some of the most talented players in the area and cultivated a hotbed of softball stars in Montgomery County.
Last spring Boyd had esophageal cancer diagnosed. He coached through treatments and was “back to the old Bob” when he was on the field, said Sherwood senior ace and 2013 first team All-Met Meggie Dejter.
Before Boyd left for surgery last summer, he sat the girls down and told them to find their own calling, whatever it may be.
“He said ‘You need to find that one thing you have passion for because there’s no point otherwise, and you need to love every second of what you do.’ ” Dejter said. “That was the most inspiring thing, and we played off that after he left for the summer.”
Maryland, especially Montgomery County, is not known as a softball state. Before the Warriors went on their 58-game win streak (the longest active one in the state), the last county team to win a title was Gaithersburg in 1999. This year, Sherwood and Blair are in the semifinals.
Boyd, a former fast-pitch player who earned an alternate spot on the 1987 Pan American Games team, has been instrumental in putting the county on the map in softball circles by bringing his teams to high-level tournaments and coaching with a demanding yet dedicated style.
“It’s just crazy to see all the people that he’s worked with and have been on our team and see them produce in the county,” Dejter said. “You go through all the top players and you’re like, ‘Yup she played with us for a little while,’ or ‘She plays for us now.’ ”
Bailey Boyd plays shortstop at Blake. Magruder pitcher Fiona Johnson played for the Cougars at one point, as did former Damascus standout Shelby Foreman, former Poolesville shortstop Kelsey Carnahan and Catholic University third baseman Christianne Taney (Northwood). The Cougars’ reach includes players from Clarksburg, Frederick and Baltimore counties.
Boyd is a coach with a visible love for the game, so much that it “motivates you to love it just as much as he does,” Dejter said. But he’s not a coach that coddles his players. An old saying of his was that if he finds out a girl is afraid of the ball, hopefully the next one hits her so she gets over that fear right away.
Following that theme, Boyd said, “At the end of the day, there’s going to be two strikes, two outs and a runner at third and it’s not always going to be your best player at-bat. You’re going to have a girl that’s got to step up and perform, and as long as you’ve prepared her, that’s the best you can do.”
Boyd never shied away from pitting the girls against older, more-skilled competition. As the years went on they started traveling to play in Alabama and Tennessee. They finished seventh in a national tournament which was “absolutely unheard of” for a team outside the South or Midwest, said Rob Dejter, the U18 Olney Cougars third base coach and Meggie’s father.
Rob remembers a tournament where Ralph Raymond, the coach of the 1996 and 2000 Olympic teams and “softball guru,” approached the Cougars to say they were the most fundamentally sound team he had seen all year.
“It spoke volumes about what he has brought to the game for these girls,” Rob Dejter said.
Boyd’s original goal for the players was for them to make varsity teams as freshmen. The next step was to find the right college programs. Bailey Boyd, Meggie Dejter and Sherwood outfielder and 2013 first team All-Met Nicole Stockinger are committed to Towson. Other players are headed to Frostburg, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Barton and Salisbury. Boyd’s dream would be to have his own coaching tree grown from his handed-down desire to coach and improve the game in the area.
“Hopefully they will stay involved and they’ve learned enough about the sport to be confident and part of the game as coaches,” he said. “Hopefully that kind of opportunity comes along for them. I would be most proud of that.”