I lost a good friend, and the sports world lost a great coach when Danny Lantz passed away April 24 at his home in Davie (Fla.).
As soon as I received the news, my mind flashed back to September of 1975. That’s when I came face-to-face with Danny for the first time.
I had just retired from the U. S. Air Force after 20 years and taken the position as sports editor at what was then The Republican Delta. I was making my rounds, meeting the coaches I would be working with.
I walked into the gymnasium and was watching girls’ basketball practice (back then, the girls’ season was played in the fall). This guy came over from the bench and said, “Hi, I’m coach Lantz. Can I help you?”
After I introduced myself, he said, “Stick around, we can talk after practice is over.”
Danny was the assistant under head coach Mida Peterson, one of several coaching positions he would hold during his career. We talked a lot that day.
Danny was a 1963 graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School, where he lettered in baseball, football and wrestling, and he was a graduate of Glenville State College, where he lettered four years in baseball.
He launched his coaching career in 1969 as assistant boys’ basketball coach. In 1970, he became assistant girls’ basketball coach and in 1971, he assumed the position as assistant baseball coach under Larry West.
He added the athletic trainer job to his list in 1975 and held that position until 1996. Quite a few times during the coming years, Danny was there to check me out and help me up after I was wiped out along the sideline in football, at the end of the basketball court, or on the baseball diamond.
I remember a night baseball game at Bluegrass Park in Elkins when I was knocked silly by a foul ball. When I was able to partially focus, all I saw were the fuzzy faces of Danny and the umpire. After I assured him that I was okay, he quipped, “You might try ducking the next time, Jim.”
I recall covering a basketball game while I was still recovering from a fourth hip replacement. “Stay out of the way, don’t get hit,” he cautioned prior to the tip-off. Well, I got hammered! Instead of his sympathy, I got, “What did I tell ya’?”
And after I was flattened by a linebacker on the sideline while covering a football game, Danny threatened to put me in pads and helmet.
That was Danny the athletic trainer.
He became head baseball coach in 1977 and remained in that position until 1991. Before he stepped down, he had the pleasure of coaching his sons, Brian and Ryan, who were mighty fine pitchers.
From 1980 to 1984, he coached wrestling. He was honored as Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year in 1981.
Danny was an avid hunter and fisherman. He also was a champion archer, winning various tournaments in both West Virginia and Florida.
His talents were unlimited. On top of his coaching, teaching and athletic trainer responsibilities, he found time to write a column for The Republican Delta.
I learned early on that he didn’t like snakes of any kind. At that time, I had a pet python named Ramrod. When Danny stopped in one evening, I asked, “Danny, you wanna see my pet Python? He’s not quite six feet long and likes to be handled.”
“I don’t care if it’s only six inches long, keep it away from me!” was his emphatic reply. Danny wouldn’t enter the house, so we visited on the porch.
But after Ramrod died from pneumonia at the age of 18, Danny would come into the house on his visits.
Danny was also a community leader. He served on the Governor’s Highway Safety Committee, was instrumental in starting ambulance service in Upshur County, and was a former member of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival Board of Directors and the Buckhannon Jaycees.
Danny was inducted into the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Athletic Hall of Fame last fall.
Danny Wayne Lantz, my friend, you will be missed by all.