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Dave Showalter was calming influence for Kaiser softball during turbulent season Dave Showalter was calming influence for Kaiser softball during turbulent season
The Kaiser softball team was reeling. The Cats lost six of their first seven games to start the 2020 season. They needed a savior.... Dave Showalter was calming influence for Kaiser softball during turbulent season

The Kaiser softball team was reeling.

The Cats lost six of their first seven games to start the 2020 season. They needed a savior. Or a shaman. Or maybe an exorcist.

What they got was the steady hand of a diminutive, 67-year-old coach, Dave Showalter, who has known heartache in his life and was not about to rattle.

“Dave was a very calming voice for the girls,” Kaiser athletic director Steve Hickey said. “There was a lot of emotion at the start of the season and he kept things on an even keel.”

  • Citrus Valley softball players joined Kaiser player in a moment of silence for the Cats’ former coach, John “Spotty†Stevens, before the softball season opener in February. (Photo courtesy of Kim Valenzuela)

  • Kaiser softball coach Dave Showalter honored John “Spotty” Stevens, James Logan and Javier Macias with a display on the back of his truck at graduation. (Photo courtesy of Dave Showalter)

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  • Kaiser softball coach Dave Showalter, left, and catcher Kim Valenzuela bond over fast food following a tournament game at Coachella Valley.
    (Photo courtesy of Kim Valenzuela)

  • Dave Showalter, 67, retired as a teacher at Kaiser High at the end of the school year, but he will continue to coach at the school. (Photo by John Murphy)

  • Dave Showalter, with the late John “Spotty” Stevens in the background, pauses for a photo with Kaiser girls soccer team. (Photo courtesy of Kaiser girls soccer)

  • Dave Showalter was a calming influence for a Kaiser softball team that faced a lot of turmoil this spring. (Photo by John Murphy)

  • Dave Showalter, left, with the late John “Spotty” Stevens and Kaiser goalkeeper Gaby Guerrero. (Photo courtesy of Kaiser girls soccer )




The season was going to be a challenge under the best of circumstances. The 2019 team, under coach John “Spotty” Stevens, won 15 games. But the Cats lost nine seniors from that team to graduation.

Stevens died Feb. 6 of heart and liver failure. He had been a paratrooper in Vietnam and those months of jumping out of an airplane into the poisoned jungle of Southeast Asia did not help.

“Everybody loved Spotty, just because he was Spotty,” said Showalter, the school’s longtime girls soccer coach.

Two days earlier, Kaiser was also jolted by the passing of assistant principal James Logan. He was known around school as “Dr. Logan” because he had a doctorate degree. Logan was a huge supporter of Kaiser athletics and was so student-oriented he sometimes gave out lunch money.


Stevens died nine days before the softball team’s first game. Showalter, who had assisted Stevens for seven years, was named head coach.

The girls soccer season was still going at that point, so assistant softball coaches Tom Rivera, Jesse Torres and Chris Laguna ran the practices.

Softball opened Feb. 15 with a doubleheader at Citrus Valley. The Blackhawks joined the Cats before the game in honoring Stevens with a moment of silence. Then they pummeled Kaiser 10-0 and 12-2.

The Cats were outscored by eight or more runs in five of their losses at the start of the season .

“Helplessness,” Showalter said when asked to describe how he felt. “I even had feelings of ‘what the hell am I doing?’ ”

Then it all turned around. Kaiser in late February played in the Coachella Valley Invitational and started to click. Hickey traveled with the team to each game.

Led by the pitching of Katie Neal and the catching of Kim Valenzuela the Cats started winning. The infield of Domonique Johnston, Jazlynn Viramontes, Julieta Monreal and Miranda Pozos also did its part, as did outfielders Priscila Pena, Iris Contreras and Alondra Salas.

They captured three of four games at Coachella Valley and tied the other game. Off the field, the players bonded over fast-food lunches. During one of those lunches, Valenzuela, a junior, found herself in a deep chat with Showalter. They discussed Stevens and assistant principal Logan and how Showalter lost his son Joshua, who died in a U.S. Navy plane crash in 2004.

“I didn’t really know Show, but when he opened up to me one-on-one it touched my heart,” Valenzuela said. “It was the first time I ever heard about his son and he got a little teary-eyed and I did as well.”


Joshua Showalter died on Aug. 10, 2004 in the crash of a Navy S3B Viking plane into an uninhabited island in the Sea of Japan. It was Joshua’s job to work on the plane and he was seated in the back of the four-seater. Three Naval officers perished with him.

Showalter recalled the day he learned of his son’s death.

“I went to the doctor and I came home and saw this Navy vehicle parked in front of my house,” he said. “It was just like you see in the movies. They got out of the car and they asked who I was. I told them and they said they needed to talk to me in the house. I knew. I mean, why else would the Navy come to see me?”

Showalter loved his son deeply, as shown by this story from Joshua’s youth he posted online:

“Josh loved to ride his skateboard. One time he put on his sister’s white headband, like a ninja. He barreled down the sidewalk and ran smack into a brick wall. Thus the scar on his head that showed so prominently in his Navy photo.”

Showalter was aided in his time of grief by former Kaiser athletic director Ed Kearby and assistant Cat boys soccer coaches Eric Espino and Dennis Barnett. Sixteen years later, Showalter was able to draw on his tragic experience to help the Cats process the deaths of Stevens and Logan.

“Life doesn’t stop for anybody, unfortunately,” Hickey said. “Dave even had some conversations with me about a situation I was going through a few years ago.”

Hickey also knew pain. He lost his sister Jennifer Hickey Makepeace, brother-in-law Jeff Makepeace and 10-year-old twin nephews Addison and Benjamin to a plane crash on Sept. 15, 2017 in Colorado.

So when the Cats struggled with the Stevens/Logan situation and the defeats piled up, Showalter and Hickey knew what to do. So did Inland coaching legend Dick Bruich who sat in the the team’s dugout for the game against Beaumont, principal Terry Abernathy and an array of Kaiser teachers and coaches.

Making an impact as well were Stevens’ children, Kris and Jody Stevens and Shaylynn Buffum, who attended some of the games. Kris even spoke with the players.

“He told them his dad would expect them to play hard,” Showalter said.

The Cats improved their record to 4-7-1 by the time the coronavirus pandemic ended the season two months early. In their final game, the Cats led powerhouse Etiwanda by three runs in the first inning before fading.

Showalter smiled in the dugout when he overheard Abernathy talk to fans in the stands about “how much the team has improved.”

Next season, 14 of the 15 players on Kaiser’s roster will return.


Showalter retired from teaching this year, though he will continue to coach. As a retiring teacher, he earned the right to take a victory lap around the Auto Club Speedway at Kaiser’s graduation ceremony on June 3.

He scrolled “Spotty” and “Dr. Logan” on the back window of his truck to honor his fallen friends. He also placed the No. 19 soccer jersey of the late Kaiser football and soccer star Javier “JJ” Macias in the back window. Macias recently died in an off-roading accident. His mom Terry is a community liaison officer at Kaiser.

“He had them all on the back window,” Bruich said. “It was cute. I got a picture of it.”

Photo opportunity complete, Showalter stepped on the gas and took his celebratory lap – driving eagerly into the future while still honoring the past.

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Name: Dave Showalter

Position: Coach at Kaiser High School, retired teacher

Age: 67

Miscellany: Showalter played baseball at Nogales High … corporate accountant until 20 years ago … Showalter and his wife of 45 years, Ricka, had five children – Erica, Matthew, Joshua, Jared and Darby … has four grandchildren – Mikayla, 19, of San Diego; Camryn, 5, and Natalie, 3, of San Antonio; and Oliver, 7 months, of San Bernardino … taught multi-media at Kaiser … gives out the Joshua Showalter/Blue Wolf 704 scholarship every year at Kaiser. The scholarship is funded by his friends, fellow teachers and family.