Matt Stillwell ’98 (right) was in the midst of a concert tour when he had a day off between performances in Pennsylvania and Maryland. So what did he do with his free time? Stillwell, former star baseball player at WCU and a rising star in Nashville’s country music scene, went to a field in Aberdeen, Maryland, and spent the day teaching a group of youngsters how to pitch and catch a baseball.

Stillwell’s day with the kids was part of Maryland’s Badges for Baseball program, which is sponsored by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Badges to Baseball brings police officers and young people together to form positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The program is named for the legendary Baltimore Orioles coach and manager. Ripken’s widow and her two sons stopped by to watch Stillwell and the police officers teach baseball skills to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County.

“When I found out what the foundation was doing with Badges for Baseball, I knew I had to be a big part of it,” Stillwell said. “With my background in baseball and my music career, I feel like I’ve been given a platform to make a difference in kids’ lives. I’m very passionate about what is going on in our country right now involving cops and kids. This program is doing something about it at its core, and I’m proud to play a part.”

Stillwell grew up in Sylva, where he played several sports and performed in chorus and theater at Smoky Mountain High School. He was a member of the Southern Conference Championship-winning Catamount baseball team at WCU and intended to play professionally after college. When that plan didn’t materialize, he moved to Nashville to become a country music performer and has had many successes. In 2009 and 2016, he returned to his WCU roots to perform at Homecoming. Several of Stillwell’s songs have reached the top 50 on Billboard’s Country Charts. His most recent single, “Hey Dad,” is a tribute to his father George Stillwell, who died in 2014.