longtime st. Clair baseball coach Denny White dies at 77
Some people knew Denny White for decades. Others had just met him recently. But White treated everyone like they were part of his team.
The longtime St. Claire baseball coach died Sunday. He was 77.
“He was a friend — my best friend — a mentor, a father and a role model all mixed into one,” said Roger Beedon, a teacher and coach at St. Clair High School who’d known White for 25 years. “If you looked at Facebook, (you saw) all the outpouring of stories, the positive pictures and the influence he had. He just reached so many people on such a personal level. Everybody loved him.”
“He was just an unbelievable guy,” said St. Clair boys basketball coach Matt Distelrath, who played baseball for White and graduated in 2000. “When you were a player, it seemed like he was the cool uncle always giving you life lessons. He was super caring, super giving and always there for you.” He had a good knack for that.”
White led the Saints from 2015-21. st. Clair went 117-62 during his tenure and won two MAC Blue Championships (2017, 2018) and a MAC White Championship (2019).
Prior to 2015, he’d been an assistant with the team since 1988. He resumed that role in 2022 after stepping down as head coach. White also coached freshman and junior varsity football and taught at the school during his tenure. Last year, he served as an assistant on the Marysville football team, his alma mater.
Coach White was the definition of being a good person. Clair baseball coach Nick Black said. “It didn’t matter if it was in school, on the field or in passing, he was the embodiment of what a blue-collar, good person is. He’d go out of his way to help anybody.”
White was born on Oct. 27, 1945, in Port Huron. The oldest of five children, he graduated from Marysville in 1963 and played on the school’s state championship football team that same year.
Known for his witty sense of humor, White’s good-natured personality kept players at ease.
“When he would come out to the mound, he’d always have jokes,” Distelrath said. “It would get you to start relaxing. Taking the pressure off was his role.”
“Coach White had some really good one-liners,” Black said. “Last year, we played Marine City on a Friday night. The game started at 3:30 and it didn’t get done until about 7:30. As we were leaving, Coach White looks to me and goes, ‘I didn’t’ ‘T know we were going to be playing a slow-pitch softball game. Now I won’t be able to make it to the club in time.’ In that moment, it just was the funniest thing ever.
In addition to high school baseball, White was also involved with the St. Clair Little League. He coached the 13-year-old team that won the state championship in 2015. The organization’s board announced in a Facebook post Sunday that it was naming one of the local baseball fields (Field 9) after him.
“They were able to tell him before he passed,” Beedon said. “Which is quite an honor for him.”
Last Friday, Beedon visited his old friend one final time.
“He was busting my chops, as usual, which I love,” Beedon said. “One of the very last things he said to me was, ‘I can’t keep teaching you all these life lessons. It’s time for me to push you out of the nest.’ He was always teaching me life lessons. He was always there for me. And the emptiness I feel inside right now, I’m sure, is shared by many.”
The visitation for White will be Tuesday from 2 pm to 8 pm and Wednesday from 10 am to 12 pm at LC Friederichs & Son Funeral Home in St. Claire.
“His legacy is going to be the positive impact he had on his players, his students and his colleagues,” Beedon said. “The outpouring of sympathy and stories from the people whose lives he touched, that’s going to live forever.”
Contact Brenden Welper at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrendenWelper.