There is an old story about a doctor who asked a young fellow what he dreamed about at night. The young boy answered, “Playing baseball.” The doctor then asked, “Don’t you ever dream about anything else?” “Of course not,” said the young boy; “if I did, I would miss my turn at bat.” A young boy like the one described above is retired now, living on the Island here with us, but his fire still burns for the game of baseball. Very few of us play at the Major League level, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still love it. There is nothing about the game of baseball that he doesn’t like. Everybody is just a kid from somewhere and, growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he spent as much time as possible at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a member of the Knothole Gang, once his hero, Duke Snider, got into his heart, he never got out.
He is the kind of guy who looks you in the eyes and connects. The word “grit” always fit him better than his uniform, and he is so funny, he can make your pets laugh. Handing this guy a baseball bat was like giving George Patton a tank; something unbelievable was going to happen. Some said he could spot talent from a moving car and that his jump shot was illegal in three states. For many kids, Pat Dwyer became the Irish Robin Hood with a trunk full of baseball equipment. Somebody had to step up to the plate.
Bernard Patrick Dwyer was born January 7, 1942. “When I was a kid, I didn’t play baseball. A police officer by the name of Eddie Gray asked if I wanted to play baseball. When I told him I didn’t have a glove, he left, and then later returned with an old, used Wilson glove. That’s when I fell in love with the game.” Little did Pat know at that time the influence Officer Gray’s gift would have on his future. Baseball in the summer and basketball in the winter took up most of his time. Pat told me, “I was a better basketball player than baseball player in high school, but baseball was my first love. ‘Hubie’ Brown was my first basketball coach. I was always the first one to arrive at the playground.” While in high school, Pat played with and against future NBA Hall-of-Famer, Rick Barry. They played against each other during the season and with each other on local, all-star tournament teams. “I always held him to 40 or 50 points,” laughed Pat. Many years later, when Rick Barry joined the Houston Rockets, Pat took his son, Bernie, to meet Barry and get his autograph. “When we met, I told Bernie in jest, that this is the guy I used to outscore in high school,” said Pat. After a pause, Rick responded, “That may be true, but ask your father how much money he makes now and then I will tell you how much I make.”
Pat received several offers to play ball in college but, tired of school, he joined the Army. He enlisted in 1962 for two years and ended up in Germany. Before being shipped out to Germany he was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana. It was there that Pat met Lois, his future wife. In 1964, when he returned to the States, he married Lois and went to work for Anheuser-Busch in Newark, New Jersey. In 1970, he was transferred to Houston, Texas. There he played softball and basketball for the Budweiser teams, while continuing his education at San Jacinto Junior College. He didn’t like crunching numbers as much he did crunching fastballs.
Pat met Houston Astros’ scouting director, Dan O’Brien, in 1990. “He hired me to scout the four counties in and around Houston,” said Dwyer. Pat would spend the next 20 years sitting on wooden seats behind chicken wire, in out-of-the-way towns, for gas money and a pat on the back, looking for the next Nolan Ryan or Reggie Jackson.
Pastor, John Maxwell once wrote, “Greatness is by what we give, not what we receive.” Maxwell may have been talking about guys like Pat Dwyer. In 1994, Pat Dwyer became the brainchild of the RBI Program in Houston, Texas. RBI stands for Recycled Baseball Items. The idea was to collect old or used baseball equipment for underprivileged kids who could not afford their own equipment to play the game. “I started recycling old baseball gloves and used equipment in my barn, on a ranch located in Alvin, Texas,” said Pat. It was reported in 2015 that 35,000 kids around the Houston area and Central America have received equipment from this program, along with personal instruction from current and former professional ballplayers like Larry Dierker, Enos Cabell, Mike Hampton and Bob Aspromonte. In fact, it was Enos Cabell who asked Pat to bring his program to Houston. Pat, Bernie, and John Nash once delivered enough uniforms and equipment for 26 teams, to Guatemala, after hurricane Mitch destroyed their ball fields.
The recently departed Milo Hamilton always MC’d his fundraisers and asked Pat to sit with him in the booth during game night, on several occasions. “For a guy who talks a lot, I was in awe and speechless,” said Pat. For the kids, the RBI program has been the greatest thing since the invention of penicillin. The RBI program still continues today in the hands of Pat’s most trusted friend, John Nash.
Pat has been an avid memorabilia collector in the past, but sold off most of his collection to raise funds for the RBI program. He still has a signed photo of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider-- his most prized possession. The person he would most like to meet would be “Babe” Ruth and the most famous person Pat has ever met was President John F. Kennedy. Pat and Lois have reared three children: Bernie, Colleen and Michele.
Pat Dwyer, a fine Christian man, has strolled through life like he was holding the winning lottery ticket. I am reminded of what writer Joseph Campbell once said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” The RBI program has been Pat’s way of giving back, his way of saying thanks to Officer Gray. I’m proud to call him a friend.