SIDNEY — Dave King spent much of his childhood working odd jobs at Cleveland Municipal Stadium during Indians games: scorecard seller, dugout cleaner, shoe shiner.
In about three weeks, he’ll have went from being a child worker to a member of one of Ohio’s most elite baseball clubs.
King will be inducted into the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame on Jan. 18 in Columbus. The Hall of Fame induction is the centerpiece of the organization’s three-day clinic at the Hyatt Regency.
“It is a nice honor to be selected by the peers and the (OHSBCA’s) board of directors,” King said. “… It’s been a game that’s been very, very good to me since I was a little kid.”
King will start his 39th season as a head baseball coach this upcoming spring. He led Sidney’s program for 25 years, coached at Jackson Center from 2006-2007 and has guided Lehman Catholic’s program since 2008.
“I think I coach for the right reason,” King said. “I like to field a good team, and I still relate to the kids. If you don’t relate to kids as a coach, you’ll probably get out of coaching soon. When that time comes, I’ll know. But as long as I’ve got support from the schools and the players and my family, we’ll take it one year as a time.”
King surpassed 600 career wins late last season and has a record of 603-389-3. His teams have won seven conference titles, 10 sectional titles and eight district titles.
“Over the course of 39 years, your resume gets padded, but the bottom line is just teaching kids to play ball,” King said. “You’ve got to admire coaches that go for 20 years or something different (from me) and give their best. Everyone likes to win, but when you put the uniform on, you’re going to lose some, too.
“I think you’ve got to be a little lucky to win. And I’m lucky enough to have been in the situation where I’ve had great players, and they want to work and play for the right reason.”
King’s scorecard selling job was his first paid position with a baseball team. The Indians’ roster at the time had players like Rocky Colavito, Jimmy Piersall, Sam McDowell and Willie Kirkland.
King later got to know members of the Bossard family, which were groundskeepers at the stadium for decades. That led to him helping out with maintenance duties such as cleaning out dugouts, shining shoes and restocking chewing tobacco and gum.
“Baseball’s been in my blood ever since,” King said. “… They didn’t hire me at first because I was too small. But they said come back, and I said, ‘I will, you remember me.’ I came back and they did hire me. It was neat; I got a free pass to a professional game and made a few bucks.
“I never got a ride there. I rode a bus from my house and needed a transfer bus. It cost about 25 cents to get to the stadium, and then on my way home I’d stop at Royal Castle and get a hamburger and a root beer, then start up again the next day.”
He and his family later moved from Cleveland to Lima. King graduated from Lima Senior High School and then served in the Marine Corps. He later attended and played baseball at Ohio Northern, which advanced to the Division II world series in 1974.
“We lost to California Irvine,” King said. “We were a little school, but we really beat some good teams on our way to get there.”
After getting his master’s degree from Xavier, King got a teaching job at Sidney and began his coaching career in 1977. Among his players that first season was Tom Goffena, who was drafted in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays later that year.
“I was fortunate enough to coach Tom my first year and be a part of all that,” King said. “I got to be a part of his signing and they actually flew my wife and I out to Utica to watch him play Minor League ball. Tom had a couple of injuries that was kind of devastating to him, but they liked him well enough that they did everything in their power to get him to play in the Major Leagues.”
Goffena is one of several players King has stayed friends with over the decades. Among those is Goffena’s brother David, who was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 25th round in 1980.
“Those guys are older now, and we like to reminisce,” King said. “The stories can grow sometimes, like fish stories.”
Other memorable players King has coached over the years are Eric Jaques, Chuck Froning, David Rees, Derek Goffena, Thomas Goffena, Kevin Mann and Alex Smith.
Jaques played collegiately at Indiana and was later drafted by the Cubs. Froning played collegiately at Michigan, Derek Goffena played at Georgia Tech, Thomas Goffena played at Kent State, Mann played at Indiana State and Smith was a record-setter at Ashland.
King also has had numerous other players earn all-state, all-district or all-conference recognition.
“It’s an injustice to try to name them all, because I’ve had so many great players,” King said. “You try to manage them and teach them a great game and have fun with it. There’s a lot of failure with the game of baseball, and once they understand it, they don’t get too bent out of shape if they get a strike called bad against them or something.”
King retired after his 25th season with Sidney and took four years off before taking over Jackson Center’s program.
“I took a break to see all four of my kids play college sports, and then I got a call to get back in it,” King said. “Stan Evans at Jackson Center was looking for a baseball coach, and I looked at my wife and said, ‘Let’s get started again.’ After those two years, the Lehman job opened, and that was five minutes from my house.”
King said he couldn’t have coached without the support of his wife of 42 years, Charlene, and their four children.
“I’m still amazed my wife has stayed with me,” King said. “I’ve been a three-sport coach for 35 years, and it takes a lot of time. Since I retired (from teaching), I’ve wondered how I did it all and still taught at the same time. But aside from my family, I’ve had good administrators, and the parents have been supportive for the most part.”
King also said the success he’s enjoyed in his career wouldn’t have happened without the support of assistant coaches like Eric Haralmert, Joe Harrmann, Rob Fridley (who played at Sidney and was the winning pitcher in King’s first career game), Bill Bosway, Brad Bishop and Ken Magoteaux.
King also currently coaches boys golf at Jackson Center and girls basketball at Sidney Middle School.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.