Howard happy to give back as career begins

Howard happy to give back as career begins

Howard happy to give back as career begins
CLEVELAND -- Dillon Howard and his family are eager for the right-handed pitcher to toe the rubber as a member of the Cleveland Indians' organization. Before he realizes his dream, however, he just has one stop to make: a trip to the dentist's office.

Howard has a Wednesday appointment to have all four of his wisdom teeth removed, a painful step before he begins a pitching regimen as a professional baseball player.

"He'll do a long-toss program down in Mahoning Valley, and then we'll have him up on the mound in the instructional league," said Brad Grant, the Indians' director of amateur scouting.

The Indians selected Howard in the second round (67th overall) of June's First-Year Player Draft. The right-handed pitcher posted a 9-1 record and 0.31 ERA in 12 starts during his senior season at Searcy High School in Searcy, Ark. He allowed just two earned runs in 58 innings, striking out 115.

Howard said he contemplated whether he was mature enough to begin a professional career at the age of 19 before he agreed to a contract with the Indians.

"I had to really step back and do a serious self-evaluation if I was mature enough to handle being a professional baseball player and pursue this as a job," Howard said. "At the end of the day, I thought I was ready and old enough to handle it."

Howard is donating a portion of his signing bonus to the Cleveland-based Milestones Autism Organization, founded in 2003 "to promote life-long strategies of success for individuals with autism, from childhood through adulthood," according to the organization's website. Howard decided it was the perfect organization to contribute to when he noticed a small baseball icon on its website.

Howard's brother, Ben, who is beginning his freshman year of high school, was diagnosed with autism just a few months after he was born.

"My mom sat me down and said, 'Dillon, you've come into something good. I want you to think about giving back,'" Howard said. "My mom has always done that for me. She's always kept me grounded and always kept me humbled."

As big of a fan as Ben is of Dillon and his pitching prowess, Dillon returns the affection to his younger brother.

"He's been a big impact on my life," Howard said. "He's taught me a lot of lessons. He's humbled me at times. He's made me realize that everybody has things to be thankful for and everybody takes simple things for granted every day."

Nevertheless, Howard said Ben is excited for his big brother to step onto the mound as a paid professional.

"He's pretty excited," Howard said. "Nothing's really happened like this before in our family, so it's a pretty big deal for our whole family, including Ben."

Howard is eager to begin his professional career, too.

"I'm really excited to be here," Howard said. "They've treated me like family since I've been here. I'm excited to follow the great leadership we have."

He'll just have to get those pesky wisdom teeth out first.

Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.