CRESTVIEW — It is hard to think about Crestview High School shortstop Dakota Dean without thinking of Bulldog center fielder Tyler Henderson. It might be even harder for Dean and Henderson to remember a time they didn't play baseball and football together.
The two Crestview High School seniors have been teammates since they were T-ball all-stars — and they’ve been all-stars at every level since, but soon they will part ways.
A lifetime of memories
"We've been playing together as long as I can remember...." Dean said. "I've been growing up with him since I was little and he's like my bud.
"He always feeds off me and I feed off him. If he does something, I'm going to try and top him. And if I do something, he's always going to try and top me."
Henderson shared Dean's sentiments.
"Pretty much every memory I have of playing sports, I have him (Dean) involved in it," he said. "There were a lot of wins there and a lot of friends made, and it was a lot of fun.
"Just every memory involves him that involves sports."
Hendersonmade an impact on the Bulldog football team when he started his first game freshman year at defensive back. Dean, who was the freshman team’s starting quarterback that 2009 season, was called up to the varsity in the latter part of the season, and was a three-year starter on the football team.
Dean, at shortstop, and Henderson, in center field, have been starters on the Crestview baseball team since day one of their freshman season.
In a few weeks, their run together will end as Dean heads to Louisiana State University to play baseball and Henderson goes to Florida Atlantic University, where he will play football and possibly baseball.
Crestview baseball coach Tim Gillis remembers watching Dean and Henderson when they started in the city league. Even then, he could see they were special players — and they haven't disappointed him in their four years on his team.
"They are just some great kids that play the game right and are really good players," Gillis said. "Obviously, they are talented, but they really work hard and it makes it a lot easier to coach.
"Time and time again in their four years here, they've come up with big hits and made big plays. They have been a part of some big wins ... I hate to see them go, but they are going to be going to greater pastures, that's for sure."
Gillis, who played minor league baseball for several years, said Henderson is the best center fielder he has seen. Although Henderson has signed a football scholarship, Gillis thinks he also has a bright future in baseball if he wants it.
Gillis similarly praised Dean, whose older brother, Blake, was an All-State Bulldog and an All-American at LSU. Gillis said Dakota is different from Blake, who has always been comfortable in his skin.
Gillis described Blake as more of a power guy who didn't run as great. He said Dakota runs better and can do a few more things with his legs than Blake did.
Dean and Henderson said there were too many memories to count, but they could always count on each other — and that's what each will miss the most.
"I'll just miss him always clowning around and us always clowning with each other," Dean said.
"It's been good because, through the years, you change teams and you change teammates, but to have somebody there all the way through, all the way up to the end, is great," Henderson said.
"When you are down, you know you have somebody right there with you to pick you up."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.