Archdeacon: The heartwarming bond of Dan and Tony

Wilmington assistant baseball coach Daniel “Danny “ McCarty Daniel talks to Fightin’ Quaker players during an indoor practice in September 2021. Photo by Tom Archdeacon

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Wilmington assistant baseball coach Daniel “Danny “ McCarty Daniel talks to Fightin’ Quaker players during an indoor practice in September 2021. Photo by Tom Archdeacon

Former Dayton baseball coach adds ‘tough as nails’ coach to his Wilmington staff

WILMINGTON — Dan McCarty always has been one to end up in the most unexpected places.

Before he was born, doctors told his parents, James and Nicole, there was a major problem in his development. Although it turned out his disorder was initially misdiagnosed, he still was facing life-threatening consequences at birth.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” James said. “They told us he was going to die in utero or maybe at birth. We were just hoping to have minutes with him.”

They were told there was a 5 percent chance their son would survive.

“But here’s an amazing story,” James said. “My wife was in labor and she was late because lots and lots of fluid had built up.

“We were in the birthing room with the doctor. My wife was dilated and they checked again to make sure the baby’s head was down and it was.

“Then they decided to wait a little longer. An hour later she was ready and I was holding her hand and that’s when they found the baby had flipped in her womb. He’d turned around so she ended up having him by C-section.

“It was a miracle. Had he come through the birth canal, he probably would have been crushed.”

It turned out the baby had a severe type of osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic bone disorder also known as brittle bone disease.

As it was, Dan was born with a dozen broken bones, including his ribs, which made breathing painful.

“The nurse handed him to me and he was pink and crying and as I gave him to the resident so he could go to the warmer, (the resident) looked at me and said something that gave me my first glimmer of hope:

“He said, ‘Hey, I’m the lowest guy in here, but it looks to me like your guy is gonna be around a long time.’”

No truer words could have been spoken, though there have been times along the way it didn’t seem that way.

“He spent the first month in the NICU,” James said. “And when I drove him home in the minivan, I remember being worried that I’d hit a bump and he’d break in half.”

For his first two years, Dan’s life was so tenuous that he was cared for by a hospice nurse.

He’s 18 now, gets around by wheelchair and estimates: “I’ve probably broken about 300 bones in my life, but I don’t count fingers anymore because those breaks don’t set me back.”

Five years ago he said he stopped taking the pain meds he was on because of the side effects. Although he’s still in discomfort, he said: “I’d rather fight through it.”

He attributes his attitude to the way he was brought up: “My dad was in the Marines, so I grew up in a no BS household. You push through things and just go for it.

“I know I’m blessed to be here. And I know there’s always somebody out there who has it worse. I’ve got God in my life and a family that loves me. I’ve got a roof over my head, food and water — things that a lot of people around the world don’t have. And I’ve got a job that I love.”

Once again, Dan McCarty is in one of the most unexpected places.

A few nights ago, as the Wilmington College baseball team was going through a fall workout on the turf field inside the Sports Science Center, there was Dan, in a black ball cap, green polo shirt, shorts and white Hey Dude sneakers, working his way from one group of players to another in his motorized chair.

He was running drills, constantly talking and the players were listening.

Tony Vittorio, Wilmington’s head coach — who previously spent 18 seasons running the Dayton Flyers program, where he won a program-record 463 games — added Dan to his staff last season.

He didn’t bring him in as some kind of mascot or glorified water boy. “This wasn’t about pity or just doing a solid for ‘the disabled guy,’” Dan said.

That was evident before this season when Vittorio named him his director of baseball operations and the program’s recruiting coordinator.

Just recently Coaches Fore Coaches, the organization that supports small college baseball in Ohio, gave Dan its first $1,000 award for his coaching efforts on and off the field.

As you watched Dan gesturing to the players the other night, you caught sight of the new tattoo he had inked on his boomerang-curved left arm:

“Never Give Up.”

His dad said that motto has helped him live life to the fullest: “He’s breaking ceilings now.”

Though Dan’s ID may say he’s 3-foot-6 and weighs just 42 pounds, he sees himself differently his dad said:

“In Dan’s mind, he’s a 6-foot, 200-pound warrior.”

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A young Daniel “Danny McCarty sits on the knee of Tony Vittorio when Vittorio coached at the University of Dayton from 2000 through 2017.(Contributed Photo)

A young Daniel “Danny McCarty sits on the knee of Tony Vittorio when Vittorio coached at the University of Dayton from 2000 through 2017.(Contributed Photo)

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A young Daniel “Danny McCarty sits on the knee of Tony Vittorio when Vittorio coached at the University of Dayton from 2000 through 2017.(Contributed Photo)

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Dan McCarty and his dad, James. (Contributed photo)

Dan McCarty and his dad, James. (Contributed photo)

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Dan McCarty and his dad, James. (Contributed photo)

Following his dreams

James McCarty played football a Western Kentucky University for two years, before spending six in the Marines. After the service he was coaching a Babe Ruth League team in Lexington, Ky. when he met Vittorio, the young head baseball coach of Lincoln Trail College in Illinois, and their friendship grew when Tony became a University of Kentucky assistant.

Eventually their lives took them in different directions. Vittorio led the programs at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne and then UD and had a family of his own. Nicole and James, who now sells stadium and arena lighting across the nation, had five children before Dan was born.

“They are amazing parents,” said Vittorio. “They’ve enabled Danny to follow his dreams.”

Dan agreed: “My parents have always stressed quality over quantity. I might not live as long because I’m doing crazy things compared to what my doctors and other parents once thought was normal, but I’m living my best life.”

When the family lived in Rhode Island, they often caught up with Vittorio and the Flyers when they played Atlantic 10 Conference games out East.

Dan’s older brother Grant is a grad student at Johns Hopkins and has pitched for the Blue Jays. When he was younger, the family brought him to a couple of Vittorio’s baseball camps at UD

Dan would come along and he and Vittorio hit it off.

“One time Tony even had Dan speak to the team,” James said.

When the McCartys relocated to suburban Las Vegas, they would connect with Vittorio and his team when they played series at Pepperdine, Arizona and Arizona State.

“When I was in fifth grade we had this project where they asked what you wanted to do one day,” Dan said. “I said I wanted to be a baseball coach and they asked, ‘Well, who do you look up to in that profession? Who’s your hero?’

“Coach V was that person for me. He was a family friend, but also was really successful as a coach. Plus he’s a great guy.

“A couple of years later I sent that project to him and I said, ‘Hey man. The dream’s still alive!’”

Dan had become more and more immersed in baseball because his dad continued to coach various youth teams.

“He’s probably seen a couple thousand games and when he got older, he helped me coach several hundred of them,” James said. “Though he might be young in calendar years, you’d be hard pressed to find young coaches with more hours spent on the game.”

When Vittorio stepped down at UD after the 2017 season to follow his own children’s pursuits, he took a job with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a non-profit that matches young cancer patients with college sports teams.

That brought him to Las Vegas on occasion where he spent more time with Dan and saw first-hand just how much the teenager knew about baseball.

“The two became best buds and Tony told Dan, ‘I’m gonna get to the point where I land with another college program and I want you to come work with me one day,’” James said.

A year later, when Vittorio took the rebuilding job at Wilmington, Dan was still a junior in high school, but started taking online classes at night so he could finish school a year early.

James’ job enables him to work anywhere in the nation, so the family — which now includes two younger children, also with osteogenesis imperfecta, that the McCartys adopted — prepared to move to Clinton County.

As Vittorio remembers it: “About five days after Danny graduated, he contacted me and said, ‘Hey V, my parents just bought a house in Wilmington!’

“‘I’m comin’ to coach with you!’”

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Wilmington coach Tony Vittorio celebrates his 700th win as college baseball coach with Fightin Quakers assistant coach Daniel “Danny” McCarty, who moves around the field in a motorized wheelchair that he has equipped with a Harley Davidson motorcycle shield to protect his brittle bones from hits or errantly thrown baseballs at games. McCarty said he has suffered over 300 broken bones in his 18 years of life (Contributed Photo)

Wilmington coach Tony Vittorio celebrates his 700th win as  college baseball coach with Fightin Quakers assistant coach Daniel “Danny” McCarty, who moves around the field in a motorized wheelchair that he has equipped with a Harley Davidson motorcycle shield to protect his brittle bones from hits or errantly thrown baseballs at games. McCarty said he has suffered over 300 broken bones in his 18 years of life (Contributed Photo)

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Wilmington coach Tony Vittorio celebrates his 700th win as college baseball coach with Fightin Quakers assistant coach Daniel “Danny” McCarty, who moves around the field in a motorized wheelchair that he has equipped with a Harley Davidson motorcycle shield to protect his brittle bones from hits or errantly thrown baseballs at games. McCarty said he has suffered over 300 broken bones in his 18 years of life (Contributed Photo)

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Daniel “Danny” McCarty, the Wilmington College assistant baseball coach who is the Fightin’ Quakers recruiting coordinator and director of baseball operations, shows the “Never Give Up” tattoo he got inked on his left arm this summer. McCarty suffers from an inherited genetic bone disorder -- osteogenesis imperfecta – and has had over 300 broken bones in his 18 years of life. (Photo by Tom Archdeacon)

Daniel “Danny” McCarty, the Wilmington College assistant baseball coach who is the Fightin’ Quakers recruiting coordinator and director of baseball operations, shows the “Never Give Up”  tattoo he got inked on his left arm this summer.  McCarty suffers from an inherited genetic bone disorder -- osteogenesis imperfecta – and has had over 300 broken bones in his 18 years of life. (Photo by Tom Archdeacon)

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Daniel “Danny” McCarty, the Wilmington College assistant baseball coach who is the Fightin’ Quakers recruiting coordinator and director of baseball operations, shows the “Never Give Up” tattoo he got inked on his left arm this summer. McCarty suffers from an inherited genetic bone disorder -- osteogenesis imperfecta – and has had over 300 broken bones in his 18 years of life. (Photo by Tom Archdeacon)

‘He’s one of us’

Since then the two have developed one of the most unique, most heartwarming relationships in college sports, one built on love and laughter ... and accountability.

“He and I went to Greenville, Tennessee to watch the junior college Division III World Series,” Vittorio said. “We were there for five days to watch 14 games. And one of the big things there is how foul balls are souvenirs for little kids.

“And as we were sitting in the concourse area, I kept watching this older gentleman fighting off two or three kids to get a foul ball because he’d seen Danny and wanted to give him a ball.

“He didn’t know Danny was this witty guy with his own voice who’d been around baseball his whole life. He just looked at him as a little kid with a handicap.

“So when the guy finally did bring over a ball, you could just see the look in Danny’s eyes. It was like, ‘Oh (crap), here we go again!’

“But Danny knew how to handle it. He played the handicap card — ‘Oh thank you, Sir. I really appreciate it’ — and guy left. And then, with that crazy arm of his, Danny threw the ball to me and said: ‘Hey V, put this in your bag. I’ll have 24 more for us by the time the tournament’s over!’

“He was gonna save us some money in our budget!”

As he finished the story, Vittorio was laughing and shaking his head: “He’s something, man!”

That he is: He’s taking online classes to get an associate’s degree from the College of Southern Nevada. He’s also an accomplished video gamer.

And he said he’s in the process of developing a curriculum to “give people with disabilities another way to look at life. And give parents ways to help their kids exceed their boundaries and barriers in life.”

His real passion though is his coaching job at Wilmington.

“I know it’s kind of a cliché — saying how when you lose something, something else is heightened — but Dan has developed real communication skills because he can’t demonstrate things physically,” James said. “He’s learned to make it real for the guys.”

Outfielder Jesse Reliford from Fairmont High agreed: “He’s one of us man. He’s definitely not looked at as some crippled kid or someone we feel bad for. He’s tough as nails and we respect him. And he helps us.

“Last year I had a little bit of a swing problem and he took a look and corrected a few things and I got back on track.”

He’s especially shown his worth on the recruiting trail. During the summer his dad said he’d drop him off early in the morning at baseball tournaments throughout the tristate area:

“He’d be out there all day and would call DoorDash if he got hungry. When I’d come to pick him up at night, he’d be hanging out with other recruiters — some of them from big Division I schools — and it was like they known each other a long time.”

“He’s already done an unbelievable job with the recruiting,” Vittorio said. “We had eight kids come in late this summer and six committed to us. That percentage is unbelievable. He’s doing a great job.”

With a laugh, Vittorio made a quick amendment: “Except the other day.”

“I forgot to send him some contact info he asked for,” Dan explained. “He ripped into me and said, ‘Why the (expletive) didn’t you get that to me?’

“And to me that was awesome. He didn’t say, ‘Hey, do a little better.’ He didn’t treat me differently. He tore me a new one and that’s what I want. That was real. So I walked over and hugged him.”

Dan started to laugh: “And he was like, ‘What the hell you doin’? I just chewed you out! Why are you over here hugging me?’”

Once again, Dan McCarty had ended up in the most unexpected of places.

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Wilmington college coach Tony Vittorio (standing right) and Paul Page, the Ohio Dominican University head baseball coach and director of Coaches Fore Coaches, with Fightin’ Quakers assistant baseball coach Daniel “Danny” McCarty, who received a $1,000 check as the inaugural winner of the Coaches Fore Coaches Award that supports small college baseball in Ohio and aids assistant coaches and grad assistants who have made an impact in the game and could use some assistance.(Contributed Photo)

Wilmington college coach Tony Vittorio (standing right) and Paul Page, the Ohio Dominican University head baseball coach and director of Coaches Fore Coaches, with Fightin’ Quakers assistant baseball coach Daniel “Danny” McCarty, who received a $1,000 check as the inaugural winner of the Coaches Fore Coaches Award that supports small college baseball in Ohio and aids assistant coaches and grad assistants who have made an impact in the game and could use some assistance.(Contributed Photo)

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Wilmington college coach Tony Vittorio (standing right) and Paul Page, the Ohio Dominican University head baseball coach and director of Coaches Fore Coaches, with Fightin’ Quakers assistant baseball coach Daniel “Danny” McCarty, who received a $1,000 check as the inaugural winner of the Coaches Fore Coaches Award that supports small college baseball in Ohio and aids assistant coaches and grad assistants who have made an impact in the game and could use some assistance.(Contributed Photo)

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Wilmington assistant baseball coach Daniel “Danny “ McCarty talks to freshman pitcher Mason Hornung (standing) from Liberty, Ind., and sophomore first baseman/outfielder Griffn McCauley, of Columbus, during an indoor practice in September 2021. Photo by Tom Archdeacon

Wilmington assistant baseball coach Daniel “Danny “ McCarty talks to freshman pitcher Mason Hornung (standing) from Liberty, Ind., and sophomore first baseman/outfielder Griffn McCauley, of Columbus, during an indoor practice in September 2021. Photo by Tom Archdeacon

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Wilmington assistant baseball coach Daniel “Danny “ McCarty talks to freshman pitcher Mason Hornung (standing) from Liberty, Ind., and sophomore first baseman/outfielder Griffn McCauley, of Columbus, during an indoor practice in September 2021. Photo by Tom Archdeacon

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