Assistant manager inspires Dunedin High baseball team

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Baseball is much more than a sport for Tyler Nolan. It's therapy. 

"Being with them is the best memory I have right now," he said. 

Tyler, or "Tyno" as he's known around Dunedin High School, is an assistant manager for the Dunedin Falcons. He was born with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue. Last month, he underwent surgery for a brain tumor. 

"Where it's located at is in the middle of the brain, connected to the brain stem," said James Nolan, Tyler's father. "Worst possible place you could ever have one." 

Weeks after the surgery, he returned to the field, and for the next 18 months, Tyno will get chemotherapy treatments to shrink and hopefully kill off the rest of the tumor. In the meantime, he'll be on the field, where he feels most at home.

"They're like my brothers, so they treat me like a brother," Tyler said. 

"It's the kind of thing, we treat him as one of us," said senior shortstop Ray Sass. "He's a brother to us. He's out here yelling at us, getting us fired up, giving us pregame speeches. He's just kind of our go-to guy in the dugout." 

Tyno's story has resonated with the team and the Dunedin community. Head coach Ron Sexton even had "Tyno-mite" shirts made for everyone on the team.

"People ask me all the time because Tyno's been so popular, 'Is Tyno on your team?' No, he's not. He is our team," Sexton explained.

When he takes the field, Tyler's only focus is baseball. 

"This is therapy," his father said. "I mean, this is the best kind of therapy you could ever get. This team has done so much for him... Without this team, I don't know where Tyler would be, to be honest with you. I mean, he really loves this game." 

"He's been an inspiration to us," Sexton said. "I think our kids see what he's gone through and if they think, 'Man, I went 0-for-4 and I struck out two times,' that pales in comparison to what he's gone through." 

Tyler's willpower to be out there with his "brothers" is what keeps him going. 

"I'm hoping we go all the way to states this year," he said. "I will travel with them to states." 

"We play for him, and we want to go out and win everything for him," said junior infielder, Adam Johnson.

He inspires the Falcons on the field, but perhaps the biggest lesson he teaches them is from the battle he faces off of it.

"You just gotta keep going, that's it," he said.