It's the dust of the diamond that takes Ed Lewis away from the rigors of the real world.
Ed Lewis gives one of his players a high-five during a recent game.
By day and night, he's a firefighter and EMT - dedicating his hours to saving those in need. But out of uniform, he's "Coach Ed," passing on the love of baseball and life lessons to generations of 7- and 8-year-olds.
"I will keep coaching until they stop having recreation," he said. "It keeps my stress level down. No matter what is going on in my personal life, I can get out there with those kids, and if the kids are happy, then I am happy. So then I come back OK."
Mr. Lewis has worked in emergency services locally for more than 24 years. He also has been a baseball and soccer coach with the county recreation league during those years.
"He is wonderful," said Elly Jacobs, whose 7-year-old son, Jeremy, is on Mr. Lewis' soccer and baseball teams. "He is one of those coaches who just wants the kids to have fun. ... I've seen them screw up big time, and he's still going to find something good to say to them. He never yells. He's wonderful."
Mr. Lewis said his philosophy about youth baseball programs is they are "all about learning the game and having fun." He said many times, parents request that he move up with their children and coach the next age group, "but I like my age group."
When he was a youngster, Mr. Lewis said he played third base for the recreation department, and Joseph Greene was his first coach. Mr. Lewis said Dr. Greene has been his role model and an inspiration to him.
Another great influence to Mr. Lewis is long-time recreation coach Hamp Brown. Mr. Lewis said Coach Brown showed him there needed to be more black coaches who were good role models to the children.
Mr. Lewis has coached recreation baseball for many years.
In addition to having fun, Mr. Lewis' desire is to influence children about the importance of fire safety and drug awareness. As the McDuffie County Public Fire Safety Education Coordinator, Mr. Lewis goes to schools and talks to children.
"I talk to them about getting an education, staying drug-free, get a role model, tell them to be good to their parents and teachers. ... I want them to be the best they can be in life," he said.
Mr. Lewis credits Richard Paschal with influencing him to become a firefighter, and he attends the Georgia Fire Academy in Forsyth annually. Being an EMT is a required part of the job, which Mr. Lewis said is no problem, because "I just like helping people."
"He is active in the community," said McDuffie County Fire Chief Bruce Tanner. "He does a lot of public fire safety education. He loves working with children. He's got a great family; he's a big asset to this community and to the fire service. He's a great guy."
Mr. Lewis thinks the most difficult aspect of his job is dealing with accidents that children are involved in.
"I'd give my all to save their life, whatever it takes," he said.
When the stresses get so big that 8-year-old smiles don't do the trick, Mr. Lewis said his wife, Lisa, makes all the difference. In 2005, Mr. Lewis wrote a letter to The McDuffie Mirror for Valentine's Day.
"She understands the problems I face on a daily basis on my job, and she comforts me when I face a loss of life on my job. She is one in a million," he wrote.
Many of the people whose life he has saved come back later to thank Mr. Lewis, he said. His young ball players continue to visit with him also. Mr. Lewis said he recently attended the wedding of two of his former ball players.
In addition to spending time fighting fires, educating children, being an EMT and coaching, Mr. Lewis spends time with his wife, their 5-year-old daughter, India, and his older daughter, Crystal.
"It takes him away from the family a lot, and sometimes he gets a little down about it when he's away from the family so much; but we've learned to work around it," Mrs. Lewis said. "... He's just doing something that he loves. ... He's wonderful. I wouldn't trade him for anything."