The fact that Urbandale High School named its baseball field after its longtime varsity baseball coach Denny Barton before he has even considered retiring speaks volumes about his success on and off the field.
Barton has amassed an impressive resume in 30 years at UHS. Last season, he became the 17th baseball coach in Iowa to notch 700 career victories, and his teams have appeared in the state baseball tournament 10 times, including having won championships in 2000 and 2007.
“From about 1996 to 2007 we rolled,” says Barton, who we spoke with one week before the end of the regular season in early July. At the time, his team was fighting to maintain a record above .500 in the Central Iowa Metro League, which Barton calls “the strongest league in the state.”
“This has been a fun group of kids to be around,” he says. “Every day they do what is asked of them. They don’t complain. They’re great teammates. That’s important because they’re around each other and the coaches quite a bit.”
Spend a few minutes talking to Barton and it quickly becomes apparent how much he loves baseball, coaching and his players. His relationships with his players often continue long after their playing days are over, though he admits that wasn’t always the case early in his career.
“I don’t know at what point in my career it happened, but I used to coach for my own personal goals, which I’m fortunate to have met a lot of them, but I realized that the most important thing is relationships. I go to weddings, birth announcements, even a few funerals,” he says.
Barton, 61, who also is the longtime physical education at Clive Elementary School, is reminded of the value of relationships every time he takes infield practice with his team. Written on the tape stretched around his fungo bat is “Dot & Pager” as a tribute to his mother and the high school’s late softball coach, respectively.
“We try to impress upon the kids that there’s a heck of a lot more going on than baseball and that we’re here to help one another,” he says.