It’s 6 o’clock in the morning and Daryl Galloway sits by himself in the Modesto High dugout watching Mother Nature wreak havoc on his diamond and his tournament.
Home plate and the pitching mound have been covered with tarps, but water still seeps into the batter’s boxes because the $800 tarp isn’t quite big enough.
Everywhere else is a puddle. In fact, the middle infield has taken on so much water that Galloway must use the opening-day profits at the 48th annual Dick Windemuth Easter Baseball Tournament to purchase bags of Turface, an infield conditioner that absorbs moisture.
At $20 a bag, Galloway realizes it’s probably going to cost the Modesto baseball program to keep the gates to Streeter Field closed for the day.
He soaks up all of this in silence before sunrise, the rain taunting him and forcing him to make a difficult call. With his face illuminated by the light of his cell phone, his thumbs hammer out “the call.”
“Sorry, coaches, no games today” – a ruling that will set the tournament back a day.
“I was sitting in the dugout and meditating,” Galloway said from beneath a floppy camouflage sun cap, “as it poured and poured and poured. … It was pretty wild.”
Instead of a Thursday finish, the Windemuth, weather permitting, will wrap up Friday. With teams traveling from the West Side, Sacramento and the Bay Area, rescheduling won’t be easy, but …
It’s the right thing to do.
In his fifth season running the Windemuth, Galloway has promised visiting teams competition and pristine facilities, and that’s what he’ll deliver, no matter the cost.
The price is steep, too, paid mostly in time and sweat by a coach with no stake in the game, per se.
Galloway wasn’t raised in Modesto. He wasn’t trained by legendary baseball man Dick Windemuth, the “Mad Russian” who helped shape some of the city’s most influential minds, both on the diamond and in the classroom, during a 30-year coaching career.
Galloway was raised in San Jose. He moved to the Central Valley to continue his playing career at Stanislaus State, and never left.
“I know of him,” Galloway says of the tournament’s namesake, “but don’t know the whole story.”
Still, Galloway understands the importance of history and tradition, and he wasn’t about to let the Windemuth fade into extinction, not as it approached its 50th anniversary.
He inherited the tournament from Kreg Moore, the former Downey High coach, and turned it into a fundraiser for the Panther program.
The Windemuth has been tested by the proliferation of Easter tournaments in the Stanislaus District. There are four in a 50-mile stretch along the Highway 99 corridor, including three in the general Modesto area: the Windemuth, the Art McCrae Easter Tournament in Ceres, and Oakdale’s Mark Dickens Memorial Invitational.
The Windemuth endures in large part because of its director, a quiet man with a loud appreciation for the game.
Preparation for this year’s tournament began the moment after Los Banos won last year’s title. Galloway put together a field that pulls from all corners of the Sac-Joaquin Section map and Bay Area.
Section Division VII finalist Big Valley Christian has been put into a pool with Western Athletic Conference contender Patterson and Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco.
Modesto has been grouped with Bradshaw Christian and Hughson, while defending champion Los Banos must contend with Grace Davis and Saint Mary’s of Albany.
“The tournament needed to be continued,” Galloway said. “We’re trying to get more teams involved, but with all the tournaments around here right now, we lost a lot of teams. We had five teams at one point, but we got it back to nine. Now I want to keep it going and going, but ... it’s so hard to compete.
“Everyone wants to go play at Oakdale, but we try to give them a good field to compete on. That’s our No. 1 thing. I like to have a nice field that the kids can be proud of; people will come back if you have a nice field.”
Not just one, but two.
Moments before Monday’s opening game between Patterson and Big Valley Christian at Davis High’s Windemuth Field, Galloway raced onto the diamond with bags of Turface and a rake, targeting the wet areas around home plate and the mound.
The umpires, waiting to start the game, checked his work and then…
Galloway was gone, again, headed back to Streeter Field for more field maintenance.
“A lot of these teams, especially in the Bay Area, they come from places that have lot of money and some really nice fields,” Galloway said. “If we’re going to attract more teams to this tournament, we’ve have to have nice fields for them. That’s important to me and my coaching staff.”
In all, Modesto High assistant coach Eric Snowden believes Galloway invests about 80 hours a week on the tournament, from his sunrise staring contests with Mother Nature to closing down the fields.
“We’re walking out of here at 7 o’clock (at night) just to make sure these teams get their games in,” said Snowden, now in his fifth year as an assistant. “I think he’s under the radar and deserves a little more appreciation than what is generally given.
“You have to be very organized and very dedicated. Who knows, if someone saw the field like this, they might just (cancel) the whole week. Not Daryl. He’ll pull whatever miracle he can just to make sure the teams can play.”
It’s all worth it.
The Windemuth has become part of the fabric of spring sports in the Stanislaus District and that won’t change. Not on his watch. It will take more than a few rainy days to sour his mood, he said.
“I’ve thought about it, but I like it too much,” Galloway said. “I enjoy it. It’s not time yet. Maybe someday, but not yet. I’m having too much fun doing it.”