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Walden back in coaching, back in Weatherford

David Walden should have known he couldn’t stay away from baseball. He’d tried it once before, but his love of coaching the game drew him back.

David WaldenAnd it’s done so once again.

Walden was recently hired as assistant coach to Jeff Lightfoot on the Weatherford College Coyotes. In his own words, he’s back home.

“I am having the time of my life. No classroom, just baseball,” said Walden, 58, who has a head coaching record of 444-207 in the high school ranks, including 178-88 in nine years at Weatherford High School.

“We’ve (he and Lightfoot) been friends for a long time. I got here in 1991 and I coached his brother in ‘92 and ‘93,” Walden said. “Jeff was a college student and he’d come by practice. Then, when he took over our summer, we got a lot better.”

Their connection worked great. From 1994-99, Walden’s Kangaroo teams reached the playoffs every season, winning four district championships and advancing to the regional finals in 1999 and 2000.

“We’ve always been really close. We’d call each other and talk, just talk baseball, forever,” Walden said.

And fate played a role in bringing them back together after Lightfoot’s former assistant Chad Massengale left to coach at Texas State University. Walden, concerned about another former Coyotes assistant, Flint Wallace – whom he coached at WHS – called to check on him and his family, who live in the Houston area where Hurricane Harvey struck.

“I was concerned Flint and his family might be underwater,” Walden said. “He said, ‘We’re okay, but you need to call Jeff.’ Then, my wife said, ‘You need to call him.’ So I called him.”

Lightfoot wasted no time in bringing Walden onboard. Of course, it didn’t take much coaxing.

“I was excited he was in a position where he could take on this responsibility,” Lightfoot said. “Once it’s in your blood, it’s hard not to do things like check the field to see if it’s ready to play. I thought he might want to get involved in a smaller capacity, but he wanted in all the way.

“He gave me my first opportunity in coaching. He let me follow him around. I kept my mouth shut and paid attention, and I learned a lot from him.”

Walden left baseball once before to get into administration. He was assistant principal at Godley two years and principal at Brock for six.
“I’m a coach, not an administrator,” he said. “I just love coaching.”

Even while he was a principal at Brock, he couldn’t bring himself to stay away from the baseball field. The Eagles were enjoying what would be a state championship season under Chad Massey, whom Walden coached at Weatherford High.

“I’d been down to the practice field all year. He didn’t mind me coming down,” Walden said. “They were a great team, very exciting to watch.”

Walden followed the Eagles to the state tournament that season. Little did he know it would lead to his getting back into coaching.
“I actually interviewed for the job at Randall in the dugout at the state tournament,” he said. “I never quit thinking about coaching for one minute the whole time I was an administrator.”

So Walden put on a uniform again and went to Canyon Randall. His teams were 62-22 in two seasons with a state semifinals appearance and a regional finals berth.

“We dropped a fly ball in the 13th inning or we could’ve gone back-to-back,” he said.

Walden is product of the legendary Lubbock Monterrey program where he played and later was an assistant coach, working with Texas Sports Hall of Fame Coach Bobby Moegle. He was also an assistant at another of Texas’ great programs, Duncanville, before coming to Weatherford.

In his first season as a head coach, Walden led Clarksville, a small East Texas program, to the postseason. Overall, his teams made the playoffs in 17 of his 20 seasons as a head coach, including his final 16 seasons.

Walden took over the program at Mansfield Legacy in 2010. In six seasons they won four district titles, reached a regional final and two regional semifinals.

“We won a lot at Legacy, but the program started getting gigantic,” he said. “There just wasn’t enough time in a day to do all the baseball stuff and teach school.”

An old friend asked him, “What’s it going to take to get you to Willis?”

So Walden left for Willis and his final season as a head coach. He led the Wildcats to a district championship and a 23-10 record, one season after they’d gone 8-13.

Then, it was time to retire – he thought. He and his wife decided to move back to Weatherford, where they had strong roots and raised their children. They traveled, had some fun, but all the while he was still thinking baseball, something he’s done his entire life.

Walden credits much of his success to some advice he received early from Moegle.

“He said, ‘I want you to outwork me every single day,’” Walden said. “I took that to heart, and that’s not an easy thing to do because Coach Moegle was the hardest-working man I’ve ever known.”

Walden grew up in a sports family.

“I have the greatest mom possibly in the history of the world,” he said. “She and my dad raised me and my brother—we were at the baseball field every night in the summer. My mom and dad loved sports, and that’s what we did.”

His younger brother, Travis, is also a baseball coach, and spent some time as pitching coach at Texas Tech.

Walden said he has no desire to return to high school as a head coach, or to become a college head coach. He’s just happy to be a part of the game and to be with a program that returns plenty of talent from last season, where they were one step short of reaching the NJCAA Division I World Series.

“I don’t ever look at my watch. I’m having so much fun,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll do this, but I’m in no hurry. I can tell you that.”

He would, however, like for the Coyotes to expedite a trip to the World Series. While he doesn’t need a state or national championship to validate his great coaching career, Walden said, “I damn sure want to win one.”

by Rick Mauch