CALABASAS — Life has become a little overwhelming for 12-year-old Zach Dwight ever since it was announced last month he had won Little League baseball's national Good Sport of the Year award.
The Calabasas boy has been interviewed by radio, television and newspaper reporters, received commendations from politicians and accepted handshakes and standing ovations from people he has never met. He leaves Wednesday for Williamsport, Pa., where he will be honored during the Little League World Series.
"It's almost embarrassing," Zach said.
But perhaps most touching are the 40 letters written to Zach by a group of sixth-graders at Virgil Middle School in Los Angeles.
"Every one in my class wishes they could be like you. And I hope you could do more nice things for people."
Teacher Aimee Quan said she asked her English students to write to Zach as a class assignment after reading about his award in The Times. She soon learned it wasn't looked upon as a normal assignment by her students.
"They were really touched by [Zach's] generosity," Quan said. "I thought he was a good role model for the kids."
Zach, an eighth-grader at A.E. Wright Middle School in Calabasas, helped raise $750 for a youth baseball team in Watts. The money paid for registration fees, uniforms, new gloves and time in batting cages.
"You have a heart of gold."
Zach never sought recognition. He helped raise the funds after a friend told him the team needed uniforms and equipment.
He plays for Woodland Hills Sunrise Little League and learned that the City Camp Rockies based at Ted Watkins Park in South-Central Los Angeles didn't have access to the kind of facilities and equipment he had.
"I'm proud of you. I wish I could meet you and shake your hand."
Zach's father, Marty, who will accompany his son on the trip to Williamsport, said the positive response to Zach's actions has been "phenomenal."
"It's been unreal," he said. "Even today, a friend of the family came up and congratulated me for Zach."
"I think you are a really helpful kid. I thought that 12-year-old kids were bullies and you are not a bully at all."
Quan said three-quarters of her students turned in the writing assignment on time, which is unusual.
"I think they were really inspired," she said. "Some were inspired to do something like he did, and that's a good message."
"It was cool what you did. A lot of kids would not even dare."
Zach said he intends to write a letter to the students, thanking them.
"It looks like they really put their hearts into the letters, and it makes me feel good," he said.
"I wish whoever read this article would want to change their life."
Zach is excited about boarding an airplane for only the third time in his life to accept the Good Sport of the Year award in Williamsport. He has begun to understand the impact of the award. People view him as a truly good sport.
"I want to keep it that way," he said.
"I think what you did was brave. If you keep helping, I think you will be honored by those you helped in their hearts."