Baseball coach Dennis Denning will retire Feb. 1, 2010 after coaching St. Thomas for 15 seasons.
Denning announced his retirement Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus.
“I can’t remember one bad thing while coaching here, not one,” Denning said.
Denning, 65, coached for 43 years and was named the Division III National Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2009 as the Tommies won the national championship in both seasons. Denning coached at Cretin-Derham Hall High School for 17 seasons before coming to St. Thomas in 1995. Between his two coaching positions, he recorded 901 victories.
“I’ve said it often, but Dennis is the best,” said athletic director Steve Fritz in a press release from the athletic department. “We knew we had something special when we hired him, and the results over these last 15 years speak for themselves.”
Denning delivered a short speech before answering questions and stressed the lessons he wanted to leave were not about winning.
“It’s the path to get to the big game that’s the most important,” Denning said. “It’s the values, it’s what you get out of it. The friendships are much more important.”
Denning brought the St. Thomas baseball team to Havana, Cuba in 2000 and played two games against the University of Havana. According to the athletic department press release, the trip was only the third time an American team played in Cuba since Fidel Castro came to power.
“Going to Cuba was definite highlight for me,” Denning said. “When we went down there, I can truly say that’s the best experience of my life.”
Denning thanked various people at St. Thomas and praised the school for making it possible for him to be successful here.
“There’s no place that can compare to St. Thomas,” Denning said. “This school has been tremendous. I consider myself a very fortunate man to be connected with all the people here and all the kids here.”
Denning cited sickness at the end of last season that prompted him to consider retirement. After “four or five months” of deliberation, he contacted Fritz. Denning said he believed he didn’t have the energy needed to coach at the level he expects of himself.
Senior outfielder Matt Olson spoke for Denning’s players at the press conference.
“He will definitely be missed,” Olson said. “He taught us a lot. That’s for sure.”
When asked what he will do after retirement, Denning said he plans to spend more time with his grandchildren, his 12th grandchild is due in January.
Jordan Osterman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org