Dave Nannini was a longtime youth sports advocate in Merced and played an instrumental role in getting the Merced Youth Sports Complex built.
Now friends and family are making a push to have the park, which opened in 1997, renamed in honor of Nannini, who died from liver failure in April.
Longtime family friend Dora Crane recently submitted an application to the City of Merced’s Recreation and Parks Commission.
Family and friends spoke in favor of changing the name of the park on Wardrobe Avenue to the Nannini Youth Sports Complex during a Recreation and Parks Commission meeting on May 23.
The commission voted 4-0 in favor of the name change. The next step is a vote by the Merced City Council at an upcoming meeting.
“I think this community owes it not only to Dave but his family for everything he’s done for this community,” Crane said.
Crane told the Recreation and Parks Commission how every time she showed up at a baseball or soccer game, she saw Nannini there.
“He was there when you registered your kid, he was there when we were passing out uniforms, he was there with equipment,” Crane said. “Dave wasn’t about the competitive aspect of sports. He was about the recreation part. He wanted every kid to have a chance to play. He didn’t care about winning or losing. It was more about having fun and playing.”
Despite running the family tire store business, Nannini still found time to work with the Merced Youth Baseball organization for over 40 years. He coached (often times two or three teams at a time), served on the board and also served as president.
When Nannini’s sons wanted to play soccer, he took soccer classes to learn the game and coached the teams.
With Merced needing more fields for kids to play, Nannini worked with the city to build the Youth Sports Complex.
Tragically two of Nannini’s sons Brian and Kevin drowned in a boating accident in February 2004. A few months later Dave and his wife Suzy set up a scholarship foundation in their name.
They began handing out $300 scholarships to every senior high school baseball player who applied for the scholarship at Merced and Golden Valley high schools. Seniors from the El Capitan were also eligible to apply for scholarships in recent years.
The Nannini Game between Merced and Golden Valley became an annual event, drawing the largest crowd of the year for both teams.
Since 2005, the foundation has handed out close to $85,000 in scholarships.
Merced High baseball coach Todd Buchner also spoke at the commission meeting.
“Dave had a passion for all athletics here in Merced,” Buchner said. “He enjoyed watching kids have fun, run around and play the game the right way.”
“Having something to memorialize Dave in the City of Merced, I do think it needs to happen,” Buchner added.
Merced Mayor Matthew Serratto said he’s in favor of honoring Nannini.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Serratto said. “I love it. I think Dave did an immense amount of work for this town. He was ‘Mr. Baseball’ in Merced for a long time.”