Sunset High coach begins 59th baseball season, first without wife of 60 years

Published: Mar. 19, 2023 at 10:46 PM PDT
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BEAVERTON Ore. (KPTV) - Royce McDaniel has won a lot on the high school baseball diamond in Oregon.

This week, the 83-year-old coach from Sweet Home began his 59th season, taking the field with Sunset High School’s junior varsity squad team No. 2. for their opening game.

But this season will be the first season McDaniel is without his best friend and partner in life. Donna, his wife of 60 years, died in October.

“I would like to have a dollar for every baseball game she attended in those 58 years,” McDaniel said. “She was super. She took care of the kids and I wasn’t always around, but I tried to be home every night.”

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After a long winter of grieving, the gift of the game has put a spring in his step, just as it always has.

“It’s helped me of course instead of sitting home and thinking about things,” McDaniel said. “It helps me to get out and get associated with people again, so that’s been very helpful.”

And the Apollos JV2 squad keeps him young, he said.

“It’s just the joy of being associated with these young people,” McDaniel said. “You don’t spend 59 years coaching if it doesn’t mean something to you.”

The Oregon Sports Hall of Fame member was three-sport athlete at Lewis and Clark where he’s in the Hall of Fame. Then he played in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Minor League system.

McDaniel said he led the league in doubles and earned a AAA contract.

“But the United States Marine Corps decided that they had a better contract for me, so I missed out on that,” he said.

After his time as a Marine, McDaniel came back home and coached at Milwaukie High School before taking over the Lakeridge baseball program and leading the Pacers to a state title in 1974.

“Now, I’m not going to say that when I first started coaching that I wasn’t on the boisterous [side] and I was a little different,” McDaniel said. “I had trouble with umpires back in those days. But today? No, no. I just enjoy being here and with them.”

Coach also captured a girls hoops title at Lakeridge in 1991.

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A retired PE teacher and driver ed instructor, McDaniel drives himself flyfishing quite a bit in the offseason, and the father of two is a grandpa to five and a soon-to-be great gramps to three.

“Number one, I don’t feel that old, but I look at some of these players that I have had and some of these grandkids that I’ve had and it’s scary,” McDaniel said. “It’s scary.”

When he lost his wife this past fall, the baseball community rallied around McDaniel when he needed an uplift the most.

“I had last years’ parents bring me weekly meals that would last a week, and that continued to happen up until just before baseball started,” he said.

A helpful baseball family for a helpful baseball man where hope springs eternal. Donna’s chair is open here for McDaniel’s 59th season opener as she watches from up above.