Lending a helping hand

Poly catcher Rob Sweet keeps sports in perspective after spending a week working on a disaster relief project.

April 05, 2006|By LEM SATTERFIELD | LEM SATTERFIELD,SUN REPORTER

When it comes to sports, Poly sophomore Rob Sweet rarely draws attention to himself. He plays unselfishly and with heart.

Off the field, Sweet uses the same approach. Whether he's playing soccer in the fall, doing his classwork, participating in church-sponsored charity endeavors or playing baseball, "Rob is going to come off as an unassuming type of kid," Poly baseball coach Corey Goodwin said.

Sweet's actions, nevertheless, speak volumes.

He missed the Engineers' first game of the season because he was spending a week with his church, Streetlite Christian Fellowship, working on a disaster relief project in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Miss.

"It was our third time down there, and we met this lady who was a single mom with five kids - two of her own, three of her sister's whom she adopted," Sweet said. "Their house had been devastated. But we were able to focus on rebuilding a roof, the bathroom, putting new carpet down, and worked on the fencing around her house."

A major portion of Sweet's job was "to take a sledgehammer to the bathroom and demolish it," he said.

While helping to tear down the house and rebuild it, Sweet was able to focus on another restructuring effort: Sweet, the only teenager among his working group of 12, formed a relationship with two of the woman's children - boys aged 10 and 13.

"I would work from about 7 in the morning, eat lunch, then work until about 3. Then we'd get home with the boys and play catch a little bit, just to bond and get to know them," Sweet said. "It really opened my eyes to how fortunate I am to have what I have, to be who I am. It gives you a tremendous sense of gratitude that the Lord brought me to these people to help them."

Helping people is something that Sweet is passionate about, and he hopes to make a career out of it.

"I want to go to college for some sort of medicine," Sweet said. "I'm thinking about something like physical therapy. That way, I can stay around sports and still be helping people in some way."

Wavie Gibson, Sweet's chemistry instructor, said: "Rob's a sincere kid who really has an outgoing personality. The type of kid who is going to put a lot into whatever he does. Rob's always talking about providing services for others. In today's society, where it seems it's always `me, me, me,' here's a kid who is genuinely into helping other folks."

Sweet is into sports as well. He has been playing soccer off and on since he was 5, and baseball, nonstop, for the same length of time in his southwestern Baltimore neighborhood of Violetville close to the Baltimore County line.

As a soccer goalie this past fall, Sweet started for the second consecutive season and helped Poly win its fourth straight city league crown. In baseball, Sweet moved into the starting catcher's role after being a backup last season to Steve Watkins, who graduated.

Considered solid defensively, Sweet hit .315 with a double and four RBIs last season.. What impresses Goodwin is the sophomore's poise.

"Make no mistake about it: Rob made the varsity because he was good, and were it not for our senior catcher last year, he would have been the starter," Goodwin said of Sweet, who is 5 feet 9, 140 pounds. "One of the things we're focusing on this year is working on improving Rob's batting stance at the plate. But even as a sophomore, Rob's got excellent leadership skills, which bodes well for our program over this season and the next few years."

Sweet also excels in the classroom, where he maintains an A -average in Poly's A Course. His classes include chemistry, English, government and trigonometry, part of a rigorous honors course load, Gibson said.

After his week in Mississippi, Sweet rejoined the Engineers, who have won six consecutive Baltimore City league titles, for their second game - a 13-0 rout of Dunbar.

In the game after that, against Edmondson, Sweet made an impressive throw to third to nail a runner who had attempted a delayed steal.

"Earlier in the game, I had messed up a play to get guys at first and third, so it was good to come back and get the play at third later on," Sweet said. "So I had a proud moment and a bad moment in that game, but I don't lose my head over things like that. I'm fortunate to be able to play the game.

"To me, it's all about perspective."

lem.satterfield@baltsun.com

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