Loss of father, diabetes can't keep Gordon's Dills down
Jeb Dills may wonder why sometimes, but he doesn’t get upset about it.
The 19-year-old Gordon (Ga.) College pitcher puts his faith in God and goes on living like his dad would want.
In the past five years, Dills was diagnosed with diabetes, and his father, James Dills, died of a heart attack at the age of 47.
“Everything I’ve gone through in my life has led me to the person I am now,” Jeb Dills said. “It helps me become a better person, student and athlete. I’ve learned from some of the tough situations. I’ve tried to learn from those situations and apply them in my life.”
Being an only child, Jeb had a special bond with his dad, who divorced his mother when he was 8.
“We were very close,” Dills said. “Baseball was the biggest part of mine and his life that we shared together. He coached me until I was 13 when I was getting into traveling baseball.”
It was hard losing his father, but Dills has learned to appreciate the times he had with his father.
“It’s true you don’t really know what you have until it’s gone,” Dills said. “It makes you look back on some things. It’s all good memories for me. I’m definitely glad I got the time I did with him. I was blessed to have 18 years with him.”
Dills can look at it that way because of his faith.
“He was a strong Christian,” Dills said. “I’m a Christian, too. I’ve been saved a little over three years now. I definitely believe I’ll see him again.”
Dills hasn’t seen or spoken with his mother much since his dad passed. He lives with his stepmother, Julie Dills, who married James when Jeb was in high school.
Dills had already overcome his parents’ divorce and was learning how to deal with Type 1 diabetes a little more than four years ago.
“At the start of the process, I was playing high school ball and travel ball. I was having difficulties,” Dills said. “It took a lot of experience, learning about myself and good work with my doctors back home.
“It’s different with football and basketball, where you can call a timeout and manage it. As a starting pitcher, I have to make sure in the days before I’m on top of my diabetes, where I don’t run into a situation I have to come out because of my diabetes.”
The sophomore left-hander has found a new family with the Gordon (Ga.) College baseball team.
“The amount of support I’ve received from our coaches, the team we had last year and even the guys this year, to the incoming freshman, everybody accepts each other as family,” Dills said. “All the time you spend with each other, the team becomes a family. The best teams bond together really well. I feel we have that bond with each other.”
His teammates took to him, and he’s developed friendships that will last beyond the two years with them.
“He’s our team leader,” Gordon sophomore Bobby Woodall said. “He’s overcome a lot to be here.
“He’s a great guy. He carries himself with a lot of confidence. He loves all of us and treats us all with respect.”
Dills hasn’t decided what he’ll do after the JUCO World Series, but he said he’s considering a couple of college offers.
“This year, it’s been a story of two seasons for us,” he said. “We started off, we had some raw ability to get moving in the right direction in the right mindset. About 30 games into the season, we got the correct mindset. At that point we turned it around and made a push to now.”
Dills showed maturity beyond his years earlier this season when the Highlanders lost 14 of their first 25 games.
“We were not getting along as a team,” Woodall said. “A lot of players quit. Jeb arranged a team meeting and got us together. He told us if we wanted to play and make it here, we’re going to need to come together as a team. He got us going.”