LAKEWOOD RANCH — Dave Moates is constantly trying to make the right move at the right time.
The State College of Florida assistant baseball coach and former Lakewood Ranch High head coach has spent the last 23 years trying to utilize his players to the best of their abilities.
“I enjoyed playing, but, from a coaching standpoint, I enjoy the ability to match players,” Moates says. “Is my No. 1 better than your No. 1? It’s about outwitting the other coach’s nine players to see if you can win or steal (wins).
“It’s like moving the chess pieces,” he says. “It’s more satisfying at this point in time. It’s always tremendous fun to coach and see if you can make the right moves at the right time.”
A former SCF and professional baseball player, Moates coached the Manatees from ’93-’94 and ’97-’98, before starting the baseball program at Lakewood Ranch where he led the Mustangs to their only baseball state championship in 2003.
On Jan. 18, Moates will be recognized for his dedication to SCF and its baseball program, when he’s inducted into the SCF Hall of Fame during a ceremony 7 to 9 p.m., at the Korcheck building, at SCF Bradenton, 5840 26th St. W.
Joining Moates in the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will be former softball player and current SCF softball coach and Athletics Project Specialist Meredith Headings and former baseball players Glenn Davis and Robin Flake.
“I was happy and elated,” Moates says of learning he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. “It’s a tremendous honor to be affiliated with the caliber of coaches and players in the Hall of Fame there.”
A native of Georgia, Moates began playing baseball when he was about 5 years old. He played throughout high school and received a preferred walk-on invitation to try out for SCF.
The center fielder made the team in 1968 and 1969 and helped lead the Manatees to a state championship and an appearance in the JUCO World Series in 1968.
Moates, who held the SCF single-season, stolen-base record for 25 years, went on to play at Florida State University, before being drafted by the Washington Senators in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
Moates spent 10 years playing for the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees before retiring from professional baseball.
“When I was growing up, there was no designated hitter,” Moates says. “It was fun to play in that era against Hall of Fame people. That’s why it’s special. To be nominated and accepted for the work and effort you put it into is very pleasing to me.”
He decided to return to baseball in the ’80s and earned a coaching position at Palmetto High in 1990. Moates coached football and baseball at Palmetto until 1993 before returning to SCF.
In 1994, SCF earned a state championship and finished fifth in the nation. Moates also coached at SCF from 1997 to 1998, before leaving to start the baseball program at Lakewood Ranch.
During his time at Lakewood, Moates coached the Mustangs to their only baseball state championship in 2003 and saw Lastings Milledge become a first-round draft pick of the New York Mets.
Moates’ fondest memory as a coach came in the 2003 season. Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning of the regional quarterfinals, Moates watched Milledge steal home plate, as the Mustangs eventually came from behind to beat Naples Gulf Coast 6-5.
The Mustangs went on to outscore their opponents 35-9 over the course of the next four games en route to winning the Class 5A state title.
“Being able to watch the team mature and grow and seeing them make plays you’ve seen them work so hard to make … those are the things you remember,” he says.
Moates returned to SCF as an assistant coach last year.
“I’ve been a part of six state championships either as a player or as a coach,” Moates says. “I’ve been very fortunate to have had a nice ride in the MCC/SCF program ever since I was a freshman. I’m very (appreciative) that Tim Hill Sr. and now Tim Hill Jr. have afforded me the opportunity to coach.
“The tradition and history at (SCF) is tremendous,” Moates says. “The program is by far the best in the state of Florida.”
Now, as he prepares for another season with the Manatees, Moates is hoping his players continue to play the game the way the he learned how to play decades ago.
“I hope they learn how to play the game hard, with integrity and to play the game honestly,” Moates says. “I want them to play the game the way it should be played.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].