After celebrating a championship win with his Lompoc Babe Ruth baseball team Sunday, coach and equipment manager Dave McNamee is ready to hang up his bat bag after 40 years of service.
“My days of carrying equipment are over with,” said McNamee, 60, after guiding his team, the Lompoc Elks, to a title on Sunday. "It's time to fill some bucket list items."
But first, McNamee has one more goal -- leading his Lompoc All-Star team to a District 6 championship.
Last summer, he served as head manager of the 14-year-old team that captured the title by beating Santa Maria 5-4. He will look to defend that title with the now-15-year-olds later this month.
After the conclusion of the All-Star season, McNamee will step away from the baseball diamond and devote more time to his family.
The Lompoc Elks are the 2019 Babe Ruth champions. And they needed two games to seal the city's title. After falling 5-3 in their Sunday morning contest, The Elks sealed their championship on Sunday afternoon by beating V& J Truckers by a score of 9-4 on Sunday at George Meyer Park to win the city’s double elimination tournament.
While McNamee likes the spotlight to be on the kids he coaches and not himself, he knows he's inspired many in Lompoc since he began coaching in 1974.
He built a resume of teaching kids baseball and life lessons, all while making city and district title runs.
McNamee has lived in Lompoc since the age of 4. He played in the city's Little League at 8 and stayed involved with baseball ever since, from player to coach to head equipment manager.
He's a believer of paying it forward, since he recalls many teaching him the baseball ropes at an early age.
One of his mentors was the late George Meyer, whom the Babe Ruth field was named after. McNamee and Meyer coached together on the Lompoc Chemical Kids team. Meyer died in October 2015 at the age of 82.
"Someone taught me how to play; now it was time to teach someone else," McNamee said.
McNamee has seen his share of talented athletes come through the Lompoc Valley.
Through his involvement with Babe Ruth, McNamee had the chance to share the field with future Lompoc High and Cabrillo High baseball stars with names like Danny Duffy, Ryan Church, Izzy Hernandez, Oscar Rojas, Ruben Cortez, Isaac and C.J. Simmons and Corey Dotzler.
Two of those players, Duffy and Church, went on to play Major League Baseball.
"I did help Danny when he was on the junior varsity [at Cabrillo] before he blossomed into a ball player," McNamee said of the pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. "He was actually a late bloomer."
McNamee also coached Church, who graduated from Lompoc High in 1996 and played in the MLB from 2004 to 2010.
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"By the time he was in Babe Ruth, he was already a dominant pitcher," McNamee recalled. "When he got to high school, though, his arm got hurt and he had a hurt shoulder. But he became a full-time hitter. He was such a good athlete."
McNamee also cited one particularly inspirational player he coached on the Elks team: Noah Scott, who died of leukemia in June 2017.
Scott pitched for McNamee and the Elks before cancer prevented him from going on the hill. The team and league were inspired by Scott's fight and dedicated the 2017 season to him.
The Lompoc Babe Ruth trophy now goes by a new name: The Noah Scott Championship Trophy.
Scott’s younger brother, Jordan, was given the 2019 Lompoc Babe Ruth Sportsmanship Award following the Elks’ title victory Sunday.
To claim the city title, McNamee's team had to play two games in one day. The Elks lost 5-3 against team V&J Trucking in a morning showdown at George Meyer Park.
But the Elks responded, winning 9-5 in the seven-team, double-elimination tournament to capture the Elks' second title in five years.
And, the Elks won the championship with what McNamee called a relatively young group.
“I had nine 13-year-olds,” McNamee said. Babe Ruth’s age group is 13 to 15, although kids can play at age 12, and McNamee said his team featured only three players representing the oldest age.
Outside teaching baseball to players, McNamee was in charge of ensuring every player received the gear they needed before the Babe Ruth baseball season began.
He stayed involved with local baseball backed by a supportive wife who saw the long hours he put in.
"I thank her for allowing me to do that," McNamee said of his wife, Linda.
He also is grateful for the city where he was raised and would go on to mentor countless ball players.
"Lompoc is a great town to play sports in," he said.