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Celebrating seven decades

Juneau recognizes softball coaches Massey, Alt

Posted: August 7, 2011 - 10:06pm  |  Updated: August 7, 2011 - 10:09pm
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Juneau-Douglas softball manager Dave Massey, left, and assistant coach Glen Alt attend a party in their honor at Melvin Park on Friday celebrating their seven-plus decades of coaching Juneau kids in softball and baseball.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Juneau-Douglas softball manager Dave Massey, left, and assistant coach Glen Alt attend a party in their honor at Melvin Park on Friday celebrating their seven-plus decades of coaching Juneau kids in softball and baseball.

One is known for his blistering sense of humor, the other for his patented pairs of khaki shorts.

Both are known for their dedication to the kids and community of Juneau.

Juneau-Douglas softball manager Dave Massey and assistant coach Glen Alt were recognized Friday by a large gathering of family and friends of the program where the magic happens each spring: Melvin Park.

Massey, 68, is entering his 40th year on the sideline, while Alt, 63, has been coaching for 30-plus years.

“Yeah, but he’s way older than me. You see that scoreboard over there?” Alt quipped, pointing to the scoreboard on the youth softball field. “That’s where the glacier used to be when Dave started coaching.”

A true gentleman of Juneau’s athletic landscape, past and present, Massey has been the fixture in Crimson Bears softball for more than a quarter-century, building Juneau-Douglas into a perennial state power.

Massey was an assistant on the first few teams in the late 1980s, and JDHS was the runner-up in the first fastpitch state tournament in 1996. Since then, the Crimson Bears have won seven state titles and three more runner-up trophies. In 16 state tourneys, JDHS has played for Alaska’s top prize 11 times.

“My goal is to be competitive every year and I think that we’ve done that. Then it’s up to the girls,” Massey said. “I would be lying if I said the coaches don’t get a sense of satisfaction from winning, but I think it’s more satisfying to us that the girls are proud of their program, wear the uniform with pride and have respect for the history of Juneau softball.”

The duo has seen a lot of tears in the wake of defeat, and shared in many more celebrations.

“The girls keep it in perspective pretty well,” Massey said. “Sometimes it’s harder on the coaches, wondering what we could have done to maybe make the difference. But it’s usually up to the girls to play their game and for the most part, they do a great job.”

Massey said he doesn’t have a favorite team he’s coached.

“Some stand out and I might have some extra-fond memories of a couple of teams,” he said. “But I just enjoy seeing the girls get the most out of what they have in them. If we try hard, stay focused, practice well and are prepared, when we play the game, whatever happens is supposed to happen. That’s all a kid or coach can do is the best they can.

“If it’s good enough to win, hey, that’s great and we like that. If it’s not, then we lose with pride and keep our heads up.”

Massey listed his three Gatorade Player of the Year award winners for the state of Alaska as some of his best players. Hannah Barril (2006), Carrie Ann Laliberte (2007) and two-time winner Brittany Fenumiai (2009 and 2010) are the three Crimson Bears to take home the prestigious award.

Massey, however, always looks at things from a team-first perspective.

“I think you have to look at the kids that have won the Gatorade award, but we’ve had players before we got involved with that program that were more than capable of winning it,” Massey said. “Rather than talking about individuals in general, we’ve been known as a really good pitching team, and we hit with power. We usually throw well and don’t make a whole lot of errors. That’s what our teams have been built on and what we’re known for.”

Massey has coached his own daughters, Mindy, Mandy and Michelle, among countless other daughters and sons of Juneau.

“It was great to play for him. He treated everybody fairly and his expectations for me were the same as the other girls,” said Mindy Massey Barry, 32, his youngest daughter who went on to play at the University of Redlands. “He definitely told me to just be a part of the team and all of the girls looked up to him.

“Playing for him was our time, not only father-daughter time, but also our bond and connection,” she continued. “He taught me so much more than just softball.”

Fenumiai, now playing at Hawaii-Pacific University, still remembers the first time Massey put her in a game.

“He put me in left field in Sitka so I could get my letter when I was a freshman,” she said. “It was my first time going in after I had my knee surgery.”

Fenumiai captained the Crimson Bears basketball and softball teams for a couple of years, winning state titles in both sports, and said she learned how to lead by example from studying and working with Massey.

“I’ve learned that hard work is key from him, and how to get along with one another and have good teamwork. I learned a lot about leadership from him,” she said. “He’s taught us through example how to be a leader.”

“(Forty years of coaching) definitely means he’s committed and willing to give us his time, which he doesn’t have to do,” she continued. “He does it to help us get better as people and as players. It’s amazing. Forty years is a long time and it shows how much he cares about us.”

Barry agreed, recalling some of the many times she’s been stopped by people to share a moment they had shared with her father.

“It’s pretty amazing for anyone to do anything for 40 years — consecutively, especially,” she said. “For us, we’ve always been stopped by people who have said, ‘Hey, you’re coach Massey’s daughter. He taught me this and that and this and that. He’s such a great guy. Is he still coaching? Does he have shorts on? Does he ever wear pants?’

“People are instantly transported back to Little League. They can still quote things he said.”

The story behind the shorts

Massey began wearing his famous khaki shorts in 1972 after trying to teach a lesson to his boys when coaching a local Majors team. And he’s worn them ever since, even in the dead of winter.

“I was thinking about wearing pants to the party. If I had tear-aways, I would,” Massey chuckled. “But the shorts came from back when I was coaching Little League. There was a day when we had our typical summer day when rains came up late in the afternoon. I was wearing shorts that day and the kids were whining about being cold.”

Massey said he pointed out the fact that he was wearing shorts.

“Look at me,” he recalled. “If I’m wearing shorts, what’s your problem?”

Massey said they had a laugh about it and the next game he wore pants, and the kids gave him a hard time.

“What’s the matter Mr. Massey, you aren’t wearing shorts today?” Massey said in his best snarky kid voice. “So I just started wearing shorts that season and it got to be a habit and a tradition.

“So that’s where it came from — showing up 12-year-old boys, which shouldn’t be what an adult bases his life on, but I guess that’s what happened to me.”

Fenumiai added he’s also known for something else — ring around the rear end.

“He always sits on a bucket during games, calling signals and just waiting for the half-inning to be over,” she said. “When he gets up he has a ring on his butt just from sitting on it. So we all tell him he has a bucket butt.”

Swimming before softball

Growing up in Alton, Ill., Massey was a talented swimmer. A backstroke and breaststroke specialist, he used to swim with friends at the local YMCA, eventually earning a scholarship to Eastern Illinois. Though he swam in college, he said he never won anything big and his claim to swimming fame was being kicked by a future Olympian.

“I got kicked in the backstroke by Tom Stock, who won in the Olympics,” Massey said. “He was amazing.

“But swimming was fun and that’s what we did,” he continued. “At one point, I was in the water every day for five straight years.”

Massey got into coaching in 1971 in his first year in Juneau after a neighbor convinced him to manage a Little League team.

“Actually, I didn’t want anything to do with it anymore but less than a week before opening day the following year, they had a Majors team that didn’t have a coach,” Massey said. “There was a dad who was carrying the equipment bag and the neighbor, again, talked me into coaching the Majors team in ’72.”

Massey coached Majors for a few years and moved up to Juniors, Seniors, Big League and then Legion ball.

When his daughters were of age, Massey convinced the league to form a softball division.

“Baseball was king in the summer, and basketball was king in the winter,” Massey said. “Other than that, we didn’t really have much else. There was wrestling, track and cross-country, but they didn’t have much in the way of youth programs.”

At that time, some were of the opinion that girls shouldn’t play baseball. Massey went to the Little League president and pushed for the start of a girls’ softball program, which had been added to the national Little League organization.

“One of the board members said, ‘You know, girls just really aren’t that competitive,’” he recalled. “‘They really aren’t like guys and they aren’t really competitive in nature.’”

The board agreed to start the program as long as they wouldn’t compete in All-Stars or tournaments because of the cost.

Massey said the league gave the girls a 10-game schedule compared to the 20 games the boys were playing.

“We put our foot down and said that wasn’t appropriate. The girls are just like the guys as far as competitiveness, and they need the same number of games,” Massey said. “We managed to get them to increase the number of games and it’s been equal pretty much ever since.

“I think the girls have shown that they are every bit as competitive,” he continued. “But softball was something new and I don’t blame anybody for it. If you haven’t had it, you don’t know. And I had three daughters so I knew how competitive they were.”

After a few years they started an All-Star program, but the teams struggled against more experienced state competition. That’s when the Midnight Suns program was founded by Massey and Alt.

“Our first games as an All-Star team were the first game of the state tournament. We felt that our girls were disadvantaged in that the other teams had already had six or seven games under their belts. They had the experience and the butterflies were somewhat gone,” Alt said. “The playing field wasn’t fair so we decided we needed to do something about that.

“We started taking our girls south and decided to make (Midnight Suns) a feeder program for the high school.”

Years later, the fastpitch softball program was born at Juneau-Douglas High School. Kari Monagle and Steve Squires, both teachers, were the first managers while Massey assisted.

“We were successful with that and it was good,” Massey said. “But after them, we couldn’t find someone that had the qualifications and desire to coach. So I stepped up and have been (the manager) ever since.”

The rest is history and in 2010, Massey received perhaps his highest honor yet after being recognized by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association as its West Region Coach of the Year. The Crimson Bears went 20-2 and won the school’s seventh state championship that year. There are only four regional winners of the award in the entire country.

Adding up the decades

Massey and another friend convinced Alt to get into coaching 30-plus years ago.

“It was a natural transition and I enjoyed it. At first it was with the boys and we both had daughters, and I’ll never go back. It’s a lot of fun,” Alt said. “I got back here in ’91 and he talked me into coming out to coach at the high school, so we’ve been coaching the high school team since then.”

Alt said traveling down south to Arizona with the girls each year is something he and Massey always look forward to.

“It’s always fun traveling with the girls. Going to Arizona is our spring training. You get to know the incoming freshmen and they get to learn a little bit about you,” he said. “It’s always fun because Dave and I, the intimidation factor with the freshmen, they have the big eyes but little do they know, we’re pushovers.

“We’re always in the same van and I drive while Dave rides passenger,” he continued. “It’s amazing what we can sit up front and listen to that goes on in the back. There are a lot of funny stories.”

Alt said seeing the girls come back as women with their own kids is what is most rewarding.

“There are so many highlights but to me, the biggest highlight is seeing all these girls over the years. They’re good kids. They make a substantial contribution to Juneau. They’re from all walks of life and they get married and have families,” he said. “Some of the kids, I’ve coached their parents and their parents. It’s the third generation of some of these girls that we’ve coached and that’s the fun part. You get really attached to them and it’s hard to see them leave after four years.”

Massey said he hadn’t thought much about what 40 years meant to him until finding out about the party the night before. He agreed that the best part about coaching for so long is the relationships born through the years.

“I guess the neat thing is to see both the boys and girls that I’ve coached over the years go on and become really good people in the community,” he said. “And then having kids and bringing their kids back to the program. They seem to have really enjoyed the program so much they want their kids to be a part of it. That’s very satisfying for me.”

For every yin, there’s a yang, and Massey said he and Alt have been accused of being like an old married couple on more than one occasion.

“He and I coach pretty much on the same page. When we don’t, it’s good to go back and forth,” he said. “One of the advantages is that he’s one of the coaches that doesn’t get mad at the same time I get mad, and vice versa. We keep each other balanced. He’s a very capable coach but quite frankly, the girls’ development is one reason I keep coaching and the other is because I enjoy the other coaches.

“Glen and Dennis Powers and the other people we’ve had through the years are great,” he continued. “Girls that played in the program are now coming back to coach and be a part of the program at the JV level. Dennis is closing in on 20 years and it’s just been a lot of fun. If there were someone new every year or every other year, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.”

Massey said he’s looking forward to many more years in the dugout — and on the bucket.

“Well, I don’t know if I can find anything else to do,” he laughed. “I enjoy going out fishing, mainly just to be with friends, but I don’t see myself ever getting a boat. The fish is great to get, but I don’t have the passion for it others do.

“I have grandkids here that keep us from being snowbirds or moving,” he continued. “If I’m going to stay here and be around my grandkids — and I don’t see myself going anywhere any time soon — and as long as I have great assistant coaches, it’s a lot of fun and it’s rewarding. It keeps me active and motivated and if I didn’t coach, I don’t know what else I would do to not just occupy my time, but give me that passion.”

Massey concluded by saying that while he and Alt have put in decades coaching the kids, they’ve never done it alone.

“Anytime you’re involved in a developing program that started from scratch, it takes an awful lot of people working together to make something work and something good,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve had a ton of people that have given these girls and this community something that is worth working for.”

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