'The town lost a great friend:' Dan Bodary, Lompoc baseball icon, has died at 81

·4 min read

Oct. 26—Dan Bodary left the Midwest to come to Lompoc in 1963.

In 2001, Bodary retired as one of the most successful high school coaches in the nation.

Bodary coached the Braves for 35 seasons, winning 615 games, 18 league championships and four CIF titles.

He had nearly 30 players sign professional baseball contracts and six former players reach the majors.

Bodary, the Lompoc High coaching icon, died Sunday in his native Michigan. He was 81.

When he retired in 2001, he was one of only four coaches in the state to have reached 600 wins. He went 615-284-13 in his 35 years as the head coach of the Braves, making him the sixth winningest coach in the history of the CIF Southern Section.

His 1970 team won 27 games in a row, a record that still stands. That winning streak reached 36 games in 1971, a mark that has been equaled just once but never surpassed, per Jim McKaskle, Bodary's first assistant when he took over the program in 1967.

Bodary coached the Braves to CIF championship in 1970, 1974, 1979 and 1993.

He did this all with a unique approach to coaching. Bodary was even-keeled and fair. He was intensely prepared but not fiery.

"Dan was not a yeller or screamer," McKaskle said Monday. "He felt, like I felt, that coaches that yelled and screamed at kids did so because they hadn't taught them how to play. If they taught them how to play the game, they wouldn't need to yell and scream. The kids just played.

"That's one thing about Lompoc, they were not always great physical specimens, they were just kids who played the game."

Bodary was also a beloved teacher at Lompoc High.

"I think for one thing, he had great priorities: Family first, school second and baseball was third," said Tom Harmon, who had the unique experience of playing for Bodary at Lompoc then serving as his assistant coach for 25 years. "When it came to baseball, he was really well prepared. He always listened to whatever anyone had to say. Dan knew how to get the most out of players. He was a great motivator and teacher."

Bodary first served as an assistant at Lompoc under Dick Wilson. He then took over the program in 1967, with McKaskle serving as an assistant. The Braves went 13-29 in Bodary's first two seasons. They then went 16-7 in 1969 and 27-1 in 1970, when they won the CIF Southern Section Division 3A title with a team powered by future major leaguers Roy Thomas and Roy Howell.

The Braves went 26-2 in 1971 but finished as CIF runners-up. They then won another CIF title in 1974, going 22-7. The Braves went 25-2 in 1979 and claimed their third Division 3A title under Bodary. Pitchers Seth Bean and Jarrod DeGeorgia then powered the Braves to Bodary's fourth CIF title in 1993.

The Braves went 25-4 and won the Northern League title in Bodary's final season in 2001. The baseball field off O Street in Lompoc was named after Bodary before he even officially retired.

Thomas and Howell would both make the majors after being drafted in the first round out of Lompoc. David Stegman, a member of the 1970 team, Jeff Bettendorf, Casey Candaele and Ryan Church also played in the major leagues. Monte Bollenger, another 1970 team member, Carlos Garcia and Bean all won CIF Player of the Year awards while playing under Bodary.

"There are few coaches in the whole United States that are in Dan's league as far as producing players who have been drafted or players who played professional baseball," McKaskle said. "He's in nosebleed territory."

Bodary was inducted into the CIF Hall of Fame in 2015. He was named the state Coach of the Year in 1970.

"I did (lose a great friend)," McKaskle said. "The town lost a great friend."

No cause of death was given at press time Monday. The death was sudden as Bodary and McKaskle were planning a team reunion in January to celebrate Bodary's 35 years of coaching, the six major leaguers and CIF Players of the Year.

Dozens of team members and their families attended a reunion in January of 2020 to honor the 1970 CIF championship team. The numbers of Thomas and Howell were retired then.

The scheduled reunion is still being planned for January in Lompoc.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting