David Lee has 804 career wins.
Ask him which of those was most memorable, and he responds rapidly.
"I got most memorable losses," he says wryly.
T-R FILE PHOTO BY TOM RENAUD
BCLUW head softball coach David Lee exchanges lineup cards at the start of the Comets’ Class 2A regional final game against Turkey Valley July 10 in Waterloo. Lee was named the T-R’s All-Area Coach of the Year for the third straight summer after his team’s 39-2 season.
Then the 32nd-year BCLUW head softball coach thinks of one in particular. A victory, not a loss. He hesitates, then offers, "Beating Dubuque Senior. That's one of the most memorable ones."
And he's off.
He remembers vivid details: It was 1982, in the ninth-place game of the one-class state tournament. It was hot. "It was about 101 degrees," Lee recalled. "That's back before we had sleeveless (shirts) and I wouldn't let the kids go without long sleeves."
Correction. It was scorching.
The Comets had worked their way to the consolation clash with the Class 4A state-ranked Rams after losing to No. 1 Winfield-Mount Union in the first round. "Linda (Fisher) threw a no-hitter (against North Polk) to get us to state that year," Lee said. "That was a big one too."
A lot has changed since Lee took over the Comet program in 1977, but BCLUW softball is still BCLUW softball. The program continues to pump out wins - it set the school mark with 33 of them last year and shattered that with 39 this year.
Which is why Lee (804-485) is the Times-Republican Coach of the Year for the third straight season - a season that saw him reach win No. 800 with a 3-0 victory over Colo-NESCO June 28.
He nudged skippers such as Mike Vint and Jary Hoskey for the award in a season filled with stellar coaching performances. Vint completed year one of Operation: Program Turnaround by leading Marshalltown to a 23-19 record and third place in the conference, and Hoskey guided East Marshall to a 20-6 finish in his first year at the helm.
"It's all the extra work he puts into it everyday," catcher Nicole Fisher said when asked what made Lee stand out. "He drives us to make us want to win. He's really experienced, and he always helps us and believes in us."
This year's club bench-pressed its opponents by a combined score of 283-30, or slightly better than a 7-1 per-game drubbing. In an 11-game span from June 13-23, they served up 12 straight shutouts.
To Lee, this season goes down as one of his favorites. It stacks up with rivalries against East Marshall and AGWSR over the years, and the North Scott of Eldridge tournaments where the Comets would travel to command the respect of larger schools.
It's the kids that drive him to keep going, he says. That, and the community support.
"Someone asked me uptown the other day, 'Do you have the positions filled for next year?' Shoot, no, I don't," Lee said. "But it's the interest in the program, and the kids that love it and work hard - as long as that happens, it will be hard to quit probably."
Lee said he's always looking for something to make him better as a coach.
"I'm not afraid to steal from anybody as far as what to do," he said. "Over the years, I've worked a lot harder at the relationship aspect between the kids and me than just demanding that we get fundamental things done."
No longer able to exclusively throw live batting practice, Lee has adapted.
"As you get older, you sometimes find even better ways of doing things," he said. "We have the kids do things that I used to do, and I think we get more out of it. As they teach each other, it makes them a better player."
Everything in sports has to do with life, says Lee. Losses are harder to swallow but provide greater lessons than wins.
"We've been through this cancer thing with (former assistant coach) Lynn (Zern). Here's somebody who gave up their life and did everything right as far as health and still died of an awful disease, and here we worry about a ballgame," said Lee. "I think ballgames help prepare you for being able to take that.
"I think the way we play the game, kids learn to trust each other and those around them and understand they can't do it all themselves."
Which brings Lee back to the family aspect of softball that he preaches.
"When it's all done," he says, "win or lose, we did this together. You draw from that for what happens next, and I think it gives people a way to reach forward for things they maybe thought they couldn't do.
"What do I enjoy the most? Seeing the kids improve and have success and seeing how they deal with failure when it comes. I think we really make an effort of trying to draw on something that's beyond the human side, where the kids learn to reach inside spiritually and get a greater strength than what is just physically here."