By Cary Shuman
Cullen Dunnigan slugged 20 home runs this season in Wyoma Little League, but it’s his positive and helpful attitude off the field that endears him to his teammates and friends.
Cullen, a graduating player from the Wyoma Little League, is the 2009 recipient of the William “Sonny Man” Hill Sportsmanship Award. As his proud family, including his mother, Liz, who was celebrating her 41st birthday Saturday, looked on, Cullen accepted the award from selection committee member and master of ceremonies Bob Keaney.
Also in the audience was Wyoma manager Jeff Earp, who led Cullen’s Rangers to the Wyoma Little League and Lynn City Series championships. Earp nominated his left-handed hitting star for the prestigious honor that is given annually to a graduating Little League player in the city.
“Cullen’s the best – he’s a great kid,” said Earp. “I said it in my nomination letter – in all my years in Wyoma Little League, I’ve never met a kid more deserving of the Sonny Man Hill Award. He’s a great leader.”
Cullen, who is an honor roll student and a seventh-grader at Pickering Junior High, said he feels honored to have played for Earp’s team in Wyoma Little League.
“He’s a phenomenal coach,” said Cullen. “He was my manager for the past two years, and I knew we were going to succeed as a team.”
He added that Kevin Coppinger also helped him learn how to play baseball during his year in the Wyoma Little League Clinic.
Cullen said he has been inspired by his family’s military service to this country. His grandfather, George Dunningan, was a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack and served 25 years in the Navy. Cullen’s cousins, Mark and Michael Dunnigan of Swampscott, both served in Iraq. An uncle, Richard Ruggiero, is a major in the U.S. Air Force.
Cullen’s father, Glenn Dunnigan, who has been a Lynn police officer for 17 years, is a graduate of Wyoma Little League and played baseball at Lynn English High School.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Glenn Dunnigan. “I think what I’m most proud of is how he treated the other kids on the team, like the 10-year-old players. He brought them up and treated them as teammates. The other nominees were all very good candidates for this award.”
Cullen said he has learned a lot about teamwork and helping others from his parents.
“My mother [Liz] is a great role model,” said Cullen. “She’s a kindergarten teacher and likes to teach kids in the city of Lynn. And I’m proud of my father’s job as a police officer, and I want to be in the armed forces like my family has been.”
And let’s not forget the family dog, Dolly, a mixed terrier.
“She’s a huge inspiration,” said Cullen. “She’s a great pet to have. You see her face, and she’s happy to see you walk in the door.”
Cullen said his baseball favorite is Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees. “He’s a phenomenal baseball player, and I like the fact he plays first base,” said Cullen.
Cullen, who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, plays basketball for the St. Pius CYO team and enjoys playing golf. His athletic future is very bright. The Sonny Man Hill Award, named for the former West Lynn American Little coach and official, was a perfect way for Cullen to finish off his outstanding Little League career.
“It’s an honor to win this award and have a signed baseball card from Mr. Hill’s son [former Major League pitcher Ken Hill],” said Cullen. “It’s great to know that you’re one of the best role models for sportsmanship in the city of Lynn.”