There’s not much that surprises Dave Barrett on the diamond. The Oceanside High baseball coach, now in his fifth decade of roaming the Pirates’ dugout, has seen just about everything.
Then again …
“Yeah it does sneak up on you for sure,’’ Barrett said. “But I guess when I look in the mirror, I am pretty old.”
It’s old hat for Barrett to profess his love for Oceanside. Not only has the Oceanside graduate been the longtime face of the baseball team, but the same is true with him being the school’s athletic director.
But time doesn’t lie and the clock is hitting zero for the 65-year-old Barrett.
“That’s a pretty big number,” he said.
It is, so the big man on campus — he also played baseball and football at Oceanside — is nearing the finish line as an instructor. The man who’s spread the joy of teaching English is signing off.
For the classy Barrett, it’s his last school year in a classroom and he has a good reason for stepping aside.
“I feel like it’s an opportunity to spend more time with my wife,” he said.
While he’ll have home base covered next year, Barrett continues as the baseball coach. The Pirates will scrimmage Sage Creek on Feb. 27, their prelude to the 37th annual Pirate Classic.
But Barrett isn’t tapping the brakes despite his retirement being around the bend. He’s full-steam ahead for the teenagers yearning to learn and those itching to become better ballplayers.
By directing the baseball program since 1977, Barrett said he’s already enjoyed the advantages of being someone who gets the honor of being called “Coach.’”
The payoff isn’t one that inflates a bank account. The benefits aren’t something that Barrett will cite on his tax return. The dividends are numerous, although putting a number on them is impossible and really not that important.
Instead Barrett cashes a personal check every time a former player returns to campus. It’s seldom that a week goes by that an ex-Pirate doesn’t appear at practice. They come back to thank Barrett for showing them the right path.
“Not only was he a great coach, he was a great mentor,” said Jose Hernandez, a standout player for Barrett from 2000-2003. “He helped student-athletes on and off the field.’’
Barrett hears the praise, and for a minute, he flicks at his eyes.
“I’m going to go Dick Vermeil on you,’’ said Barrett, referring to the ex-football coach who wasn’t shy about crying.
Those players meant something to Barrett when they were in his lineup, but even more later in life. He’s keen to slip in life lessons — coated in baseball talk — that reach his charges.
“It’s the opportunity to see the growth of a young man, as much as a player as a person,” Barrett said. “And to see them mature.
“That’s the cool thing about coaching high school baseball. When they come to you they are 14 years old and a freshman, closer to being 10 years old than 25. Then over the course of four years, that little boy has become a young man. It’s very grateful to play a small role in them becoming men,” he said.
What’s the future hold for Barrett? He would like to remain as the baseball coach next season, but he’s a realist, too.
“Aren’t we all day-to-day?’’ Barrett asked. ”That’s how I feel but if they would like me to come back I’m all for it.’’
Barrett is always all-in in for anything regarding Oceanside.
“He was a players’ coach who helped young athletes develop their skills,” Hernandez said. “Coach Barrett is, and always will be, a Pirate.”
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports