News at WilmU

Aaron Lewis: A Love for Baseball and the Badge

Baseball playerAaron Lewis enjoys both his jobs — a full-time career as a Wilmington Police officer, and a part-time role as head coach of Delaware Military Academy baseball. But one’s a profession, the other is a calling, and that becomes obvious when he discusses them. 

A master corporal with the WPD, Lewis reflects on his 15 years in the department with satisfaction, tempered by reality: “About two years ago, being a police officer wasn’t very fun with all that was going on in the world. But it’s slowly getting back to being appreciated now. The department is great. I love the direction it’s going with this administration.”  

Sounds like a man who is happy with his career choice. But ask him about coaching, and the enthusiasm meter cranks up to 11. “I love every second of working with high school kids,” Lewis says. And it shows. Last year, he led DMA baseball on a historic run to the state championship. Not only was it the first state title in any sport in the school’s 18-year history, it also made Lewis the first African American head coach to win a baseball championship in Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association history.

This year, the honors continued with his induction into the Delaware Baseball Hall of Fame. The championship and HOF are just the latest achievements in Lewis’ life-long involvement with, and love for, baseball.  

Growing up on Wilmington’s West Side, he was first attracted to the game when, as a 6-year-old, he went to see an older cousin play in a Little League game. “He was the best player in the league, and everybody loved him,” Lewis remembers. “I liked that, and I went home and told my mom I wanted to play baseball.”

Since he was three years shy of being eligible to actually be on a roster, he became the bat boy for a team in Wilmington’s Bus Zebley League. Two years later, still too young to officially enter a game, he talked his manager into allowing him to hit, and promptly became the first bat boy in league history to smack a home run. 

That flash of athleticism and power was no fluke. Lewis would go on to stardom in high school, college, and semi-pro baseball. He also excelled in basketball and, for one year, football, at the high school level.

Lewis’ career at St. Elizabeth’s High School in Wilmington is the stuff of legend. He was a four-year starter in basketball and baseball, earning all-Catholic first-team honors three times in both sports, and he was a three-time first-team All-State outfielder.

In his senior year, Lewis finally persuaded his mother to let him play football. The results were spectacular: He became St. E’s starting quarterback and safety, leading the team to the state Division II championship game, where they lost a heart-breaker to Middletown, 9-7. He was named first-team All-State as a safety and second-team as a quarterback.

Of his one-year gridiron sojourn, Lewis says: “I had more fun in football in that one season than in the other sports combined in my high school career.”

When he graduated in 2000, his grades weren’t up to NCAA standards, so he enrolled at Cecil Community College, in nearby North East, Maryland. At the time, the school’s baseball coach was Brian August, current head coach and associate athletics director at WilmU. 

“Aaron was one of my first recruits at Cecil. He’s a first-class guy and a big-time player, a high-level baseball player,” says August, who himself made it to Class AA as an infielder. Under August, Lewis continued to dominate on the diamond. As a sophomore, he ranked second in the nation in home runs among junior college players and was named Regional Player of the Year.

After receiving his Associate Degree in Criminal Justice in 2002, Lewis rejected other opportunities in order to enroll in what was then Wilmington College. “I had offers from North Carolina State, UD, and Delaware State, but Wilmington was the best fit with my work and family life,” he says. At the time, he had a 2-year-old daughter and was working as a house painter. With day-time hours consumed by work, family and playing for the Wildcat baseball team, he took courses at night.

Wilmington was geared to helping students make the best of what they can do, especially with the class options.” — Aaron Lewis

He again majored in Criminal Justice. “I wanted to be a cop from the time I was 16 or 17,” Lewis says. “I wanted a job where I would be helping people and where no boss would be looking over my shoulder at every action, where I could make my own decisions. And at the time, the thought of carrying a gun was very intriguing to me. Now, it doesn’t appeal to me at all.”

Luckily, Lewis had a mentor in his pursuit of a law enforcement career: Barry Corrigan, a sergeant with the Delaware State Police who also was a St. Elizabeth’s graduate. The two met when Lewis went to a St. E’s football game in the fall of 2000. Corrigan, working security at the game, approached Lewis as he was leaving the stadium. 

“St. E’s is a very tight community,” says Lewis, “and Barry said he had heard I wanted to be a police officer. He told me he was with the State Police, and he would be happy to talk any time.” The two became close friends, and Lewis says Corrigan, who retired from the DSP in 2014 and is now a Red Clay School District constable, has helped him “tremendously.”

“He’s given me great advice, especially about family life, and how to handle yourself on and off the job,” says Lewis. “He’s very professional in his job and a real family man.”

At WilmU, Lewis again excelled on the baseball field. He was named first-team All-CACC, Region X Player of the Year, and first-team NAIA All-American. His achievements earned him induction into the WilmU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. 

“Wilmington was geared to helping students make the best of what they can do,” Lewis says, “especially with the class options. The administration was very helpful, and so were the coaches and Frank Aiello, who was the athletics director then. He also happened to be my math teacher when I was at St. E’s.” 

Lewis received his degree in 2004, and joined the WPD three years later. After the mandatory stint as a patrolman, he became a field training officer, then transferred to the Mobile Enforcement Team for a year before joining the Drug & Organized Crime Unit as a detective for nine years. Since 2019, he’s been one of two Evidence Control officers in the Support Services Division.

Meanwhile, he has stayed active in the sport he loves. He was an eight-time All-Star in the Delaware Semi-Pro League, playing a few years on Local 74 with August before retiring in 2009, and he held assistant coaching positions, first with St. Elizabeth’s and then with William Penn High School, before taking the reins of the DMA team in 2013. 

“When I played I was always captain and was always trying to help other players,” Lewis says, so coaching has come naturally to him. He obviously has a talent for it. Following last year’s championship run, DMA notched its 100th win this year, finished with an overall 16-4 record, and made it to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.  

Lewis coached Corrigan’s son at St. Elizabeth’s and Corrigan was an assistant coach at DMA from 2014 to 2020. “Aaron made my son a better player,” Corrigan says, “and he does a great job with those young men at DMA.”

August’s son, Tyler, a junior, is the team’s co-captain and a 2022 All-Stater. “I wanted my son to play for him,” says August, “He’s a great coach, hard-nosed, knows the game, teaches discipline, runs a big-time program, has the players playing summer ball, going to the weight room, trying to develop them. And he stays on them about their grades. Runs it like a college program.”

Lewis, who lives in the Pike Creek area of Wilmington with his wife, Michelle, and their three children, can retire in 2027 with 20 years in the WPD.  What then? 

“I’m looking into maybe working in schools, maybe as athletic director or dean of students, and coaching also,” he says. He says his plan is to pursue a graduate degree in the next year or so, and that he will “absolutely” go back to WilmU for that degree. If he does, and if his friend and former teammate Brian August is still helming the baseball program, Lewis may once again wear Wildcat green and white. 

“I’d love to be one of his assistants,” says Lewis. 

Says August: “I would love to have him.” 

Stay tuned.

—Bob Yearick

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