Dan Coomes has spent more than half of his life as a baseball coach, but after 11 successful years at Lake Placid High School, the head of the Green Dragons baseball program hung up his spikes for the last time after Thursday’s 1-0 regional quarterfinal loss to Tampa Catholic.
“It means a lot to wear the Lake Placid uniform and it’s been a long career,” the 59-year-old Coomes said. “It’s time to give it up and let some of these young guys run the program.
“It still hurts to let it go, but I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple of years and you have to know when to let it go and it’s time.”
Coomes, who came to Lake Placid in 2002 from Bartow, where he led the Yellow Jackets to a Final Four appearance in 1995, took over a downtrodden baseball program and built the Green Dragons into a competitive team on a yearly basis.
“Dan is a guy that I really respect as a coach and a man,” said Sebring baseball coach Buck Rapp. “He’s a guy I can call for advice because he’s been in the game a long time. “He’s a wonderful person and what he’s done at Lake Placid is awesome.
“He was voted our district Coach of the Year and he deserved it.”
The highlight of Coomes’ tenure was winning the first two district baseball championships in school history. The first was in 2006 and this year’s team played its best ball of the season down the stretch to win the district title in thrilling fashion.
“Winning the first baseball championship in school history was something special because it had never been done,” Coomes said. “This season it took us awhile to get going, but we got it rolling and played our best ball at the right time and won the district title.
“I said before the season, this team had the talent to win the district and they proved me right and I’m very proud of this group of kids.”
Coomes, who has been coaching baseball in high school and college for more than 30 years, has had a number of players go on to play college baseball, but his passion for his players goes far beyond the diamond as he prepares them for the game of life.
“I’m going to miss working with the kids,” Coomes said. “Games are games, but practice is where we taught and learned and that’s something I’ll miss.
“The success we had is because they worked hard and they deserve the credit.”
Coomes, who has seven years until he retires, plans to continue working at Lake Placid as a dean.
“I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life,” he said. “I enjoy being at Lake Placid and I’m cleaning out my office and getting things put up for the next coach.”
Coomes was the dean of high school baseball coaches in Highlands County and his presence will be missed on the diamond.
“I’ve coached against Dan the last 11 years and he welcomed me in as a new coach at DeSoto,” said Avon Park baseball coach Whit Cornell. “I always learned something by watching him and how he coached his team, whether it was strategically or how to deal with players. He always had his team ready to play hard, and when you played Lake Placid you felt like you could never score enough runs.
“There’s no telling how many lives he’s impacted over the years and it will be awkward going to Lake Placid next season and not seeing Dan in the opposing dugout.”