If you happened to walk by Dave “Duffy” Dyer at some baseball park, softball field, high school track or gymnasium, you probably wouldn’t immediately take notice

At 5-foot-11 and about 130 pounds, probably wearing an old baseball cap, he is not an imposing figure.

He looks like a regular guy.

But get him in his element — local sports — and Dave, with pen and paper in hand, turns into, well, a legend.

Sort of like that skinny former pitcher of the Boston Red Sox, Pedro Martinez. When Pedro set foot on the pitcher’s mound, he was ferocious.

While those that know Dave know his true impact, there is no better time than now to exhibit his impact over the last four decades covering sports in the Merrimack Valley, the last three decades here at The Eagle-Tribune.

Dave is our 2021 Eagle-Tribune Sportsman of the Year.

We make this announcement now while Dave is recovering from brain surgery, having two separate tumors (non-cancerous) removed over a month ago.

We wanted to make sure he knew that his readership and his co-workers acknowledge his impact over the years. We, here at The Eagle-Tribune, also really understand his impact trying to fill his spot while he’s recuperating.

For lack of a better word, it is impossible. Dave can’t be replaced.

“Back in the day, someone asked me how many guys were on the staff,” said Michael Muldoon, a long-time co-worker with Dyer here at The Eagle-Tribune. “I said 5.5. They asked, ‘Who is the half, the part-timer? ‘I said, ‘We don’t have a part-timer. That half goes to Dave Dyer. He is the equivalent of 1.5 guys.’ Honestly, as we’ve found out with him out, that might be underselling him.”

What is Dave’s special touch in local sports?

Here are just a few of his favorite topics: Wrestling. Softball. Cross country. Backups. Over-30 men’s baseball. Behind the scenes stars. Those that quit but made comebacks. Those that switched sports. Hikers. Etc., etc.

The point is Dave has always looked out for everybody, not just the easy-to-write-about superstars. As he once told me, the best and most interesting stories are usually the people behind the superstars.

Dave’s best work, again, wasn’t seen by most of the public. The Dyers, including his wife Debbie, a recently retired lawyer, have been a host family for nearly 25 exchange students the last three decades, including two — Mehmet Asik from Turkey who is attending Northern Essex Community College and Carmen Elger of Germany attending Haverhill High — this school year.

Dave has for a long time helped to feed the elderly with their Meals-on-Wheels program, driving four hours a week.

After their three eldest children — Sarah (Dyer) Thayer, Seth Dyer and Nate Dyer — entered their teenage years, the Dyers decided to adopt a child, going to Russia and adopted their son, Nico, from the Ukraine.

Do you see a trend here?

Dave also has another, part-time career outside of sports writing. He has been a baseball umpire for four decades, too. In fact, when it was first reported that Dave would be getting surgery, his baseball family came out in droves looking to lend their support with cards, emails and phone calls.

And, of course, there is the wrestling community. Their voice in support of Dave during his surgery and recuperation has been staggering.

The first email I received about Dave’s impending surgery was a coach from Franklin, Mass. Then, a few days later, a college coach from Pennsylvania inquired.

Word, apparently, traveled fast when it came to Dave’s break from The Eagle-Tribune.

Remember, Dave is nationally renowned for his high school wrestling coverage, winning several national honors as “Writer of the Year” for Wrestling USA Magazine (wrestlingusa.com).

“I have great respect and appreciation for the work Dave has produced in covering the sport of wrestling for our region over the years,” said former Timberlane Regional coach Barry Chooljian, himself noted among the top high school coaches in the country.

“I believe we all owe him a debt of gratitude for bringing the sport of wrestling, its athletes and the coaches to the forefront of the local sporting news. Dave gets wrestling. His features on athletes from a variety of teams always captured an intriguing perspective of the wrestler and their individual strength of character and their involvement in our sport.”

Sometimes it takes a punch in the gut, like Dave’s surgery and impending recovery, to realize the mark people have on others.

And we, here at The Eagle-Tribune, have come to realize there was only one choice when it came to our Sportsman of the Year in 2021.

Get better Dave Dyer. It isn’t the same around these sports pages without you. Hope to see you around here real soon.