PORTLAND, Ore. — The youngest baseball players at Sunset High School in the Beaverton School District are guided by a coach with the most experience imaginable.
Oregon Sports Hall of Famer Royce McDaniel’s first coaching job came in 1964, when he was 25 years old.
These days, at 83 years of age, he coaches the freshman team at Sunset. In other words, the kids he worked with at the start of his coaching journey are now in their mid-70s.
And the kids he coached this year at Sunset are young enough to be his great-grand kids. But there is no Grandpa McDaniel on this baseball team. There’s just Coach Royce.
"He’s not a grandfather figure," said Sunset High School Head Coach John Barnes. "He really is more of a father figure to the players."
"He always lifts everybody up," added soon-to-be sophomore Max Waldrip. "Even though he’s so many years older than me, I just feel this connection that is just different than everybody else."
Sports have always been a part of Royce’s life, from his days as a three-sport star at Lewis & Clark College to his time spent as head coach at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, where he led the Pacers to a state title.
Now, he’s sharing 83 years of life lessons and baseball knowledge with the kids at Sunset.
"Kids haven’t changed much," explained Royce, "except they don’t spend as much time with the game as they did 50 years ago. They got too many [electronic devices and distractions]."
One thing Royce has had in his 58 years on the job is success. He said the key to that is simple.
"I tried to make the game fun for them," he said.
In return, his players continue to give Royce something that’s very important to him.