WHEELING - There's a different feel this year in Bishop Donahue's dugout at Valley Fork. Actually, make that every dugout the Bishops enter in 2013.
There's no Dino.
''His spirit is still with us,'' Bishops baseball coach Bob Kleeh said. ''We got him on the back of our hats. The softball team, they have it on their shirts. He was a big part of this school.''
The Bishop Donahue softball team imprinted ‘Dino’ on the right shoulder of their jerseys to honor the memory of the school’s late football, basketball, and baseball team manager.
Thomas R. Smith, better known around the streets of Benwood and McMechen as Dino, passed away on March 25, five days before the Bishops' season began. He had served 30-odd years as Donahue's team manager in football, basketball and baseball.
''He was a legend,'' Kleeh continued. ''He did everything he could do for these kids. That's a big loss for our school and it's a big loss for these kids.''
To honor the memory of their friend, the baseball team has 'DINO' sewn into the back of its caps, while the softball team has his name imprinted on the right shoulder of its jerseys.
''I think it does drive them,'' softball coach Curt Mele said of the players. ''We always think about him before the game starts and I think he sticks in the back of their heads.
''I remember going to see him when he was in the hospital and he told me, 'Curt, I really want to start coming and helping out at the softball games.' If everything would have worked out, he'd be out here with us right now.''
Kleeh also can recall making trips to the Ohio Valley Medical Center to visit with Dino.
''Right before he passed away, I stopped in the hospital to see him,'' Kleeh said. ''He was going to be on our bus going to every game with us. He just told me, 'Coach, I'm going to fight and fight and fight to get better because I want to take those rides with you.' It didn't work out that way, but you could tell just by looking in his eyes that he wanted to get back and be a part of this school.''
Upon learning the news of Dino's passing, the team decided to dedicate the 2013 season in his memory.
''When he passed, it was very sad to hear,'' senior Phillip Smith said. ''We were all very upset, so we just decided to dedicate our season to Dino. And we're not doing too bad for him.''
According to fellow senior Joey Myers, Dino's spirit helps guide the team.
''When we break just before the game, it's 1-2-3-Dino,'' he said. ''He's motivated us this year.
''He was our biggest fan. He was at every game. He wouldn't miss any away games either. It was just nice seeing him at every game. Everyone really misses him.''
Though the man is gone, Smith still can recall fond memories with Dino.
''When we played big games, against teams like Cameron and that, he'd be over there pumping the guys up just cheering them along,'' he said. ''He was the biggest fan you could ever meet. Watching him, when we win a game...it was really nice to see.''
Dino also left an impression on Kleeh that will never fade.
''That look in his eyes, when he was down and wanting to get back on his feet to come with us to our baseball games, that's something I will never forget.''