MISSOULA — Tim Gray and Dennis Staves planned to retire from coaching after a final season in 2017, but how can you say no to this?
“She said, ‘Papa, I want you to coach.’ Well, when you get your granddaughter asking you, you know you’re going to do it with one of your best buddies, and then you get the pressure of family and administration, your head doesn’t go like this,” said Gray, shaking his head no.
“I thought, ‘Gee, that’s where I started a long time ago,'” added Staves.
Staves and Gray are now back on the tee-ball field for a second season with their granddaughters and the rest of the Howard’s Pizza team.
Staves got into the game to coach his daughter decades ago and is now coaching her daughter. The longtime Missoula Big Sky High School coach won a couple state softball titles. Gray started coaching Little League at 19 and spent time as Sentinel’s head coach. Both teamed up to lead the Zootown All-Stars to a senior softball World Series championship in 2015. So the transition took some getting used to.
“Sometimes it’s a little tough,” admitted Staves. “You’re sitting there saying, ‘You’ve got to go to first. You’ve got to go to first.'”
Gray loves coaching the 4- to 6-year-olds, because they are like sponges, soaking in instruction for the first time.
“The biggest thrill out of this is watching them come from third base across home with those big grins on their face,” said Gray.
While Staves admits he sometimes misses the big games, the two teach sport the same way — except now they don’t have to keep one eye on the scoreboard.
“Not a lot of pressure,” said Staves. “No parents hounding you, that’s for sure.”
“The first thing the kids ask you when you’re done with a game is, ‘Did we win?’ And the answer is, ‘We did not lose,'” Gray added.
Both Staves and Gray know their granddaughters now expect them to coach throughout their climb up the youth ranks, and they both plan to stay in the game as long as they can.
As Staves said, “it’s in our blood.”