Most Viewed Stories
Coach Stout: An inspiration from start to finish
First impressions are important.
From the moment a player would walk onto the baseball field or into the cavernous Kofa High School gymnasium for physical education class, they knew Coach Stout was all business. He was the stuff of legends.
This is his story.
Inside the Yuma home office of Dean Stout, who died Sept. 13, his longtime companion, Frances Evans, reaches up and gently touches a massive black-and-white photo of Stout standing amidst a throng of baseball players.
“That's him there,” said Evans pointing to Stout. A baseball hat is perched on top of his head and yet he is still far shorter than the other coaches standing nearby. It's obvious, however, that every eye is trained on him; what he was preaching at that moment was profound.
“Coaching and going to school every day was never work for Dean,” said Evans, fighting back tears. “He loved it.”
Stout coached varsity baseball for 29 years and freshman football for 38 years at Kofa High School.
Besides the aged and yellowing photo, nearly every inch of the tiny room is covered with a kind of historical mementoes detailing Stout's celebrated tenure coaching and teaching in Yuma.
Some of the dusty awards, plaques and old dented license plates date back decades, while others — photos, baseball caps, shirts and medals — are more recent. Tucked amid the memorabilia are photos of his family: Stout holding his two grandchildren; standing with his brothers; Stout with his sons; and near his family farm in Illinois.
Evans peers through her glasses at some of the photos and smiles, pointing out those that he left behind: Stout's two sons, Brian and Matthew, and their partners; his daughter, Julia, her husband and their two girls, Madison and Isabella. And while the photos reflect his incontrovertible athletic achievements, Coach Stout's memory is about more than just sports — it's about an unassuming man with Rat Pack Hollywood good looks famous for his back pocket full of index cards, unmistakable voice, attention to detail and above all his devotion to his family.
Born in 1932 in rural Illinois, Stout attended a one-room schoolhouse in Bement and grew up in a home where education was paramount. He was, in fact, from a young age encouraged to attend college rather than adopt the agrarian lifestyle of his father. Stout remained committed to the acres of pristine Illinois farmland, however, and instilled in his children the character-building principles cultivated from working on the farm.
“My father taught us an incredible work ethic,” said his daughter, Julia Daniel, a college recruiter. “He never told us what to do but guided us in the right direction and if we stumbled, we had to figure out how to get up on our own.”
And according to Steve Pallack, Coach Stout popularized that same ethos in his classroom and on the field. “He never coddled students or athletes, but he taught them to work hard and achieve their best.”
Pallack, now retired, was a former student-turned-colleague who, under Stout's tutelage, learned what Pallack called “the basics.”
“Someone would ask a question about a drill,” said Pallack, “and Coach Stout would pull out a piece of paper from 1972 with description of the exact exercise.”
“He saved the scoops from laundry detergent and the newspaper rubber bands,” said Daniel, laughing about her father's famously frugal nature. “He used to brag about his $17 air conditioner bills in July, mind you.”
“He always said he was a Depression baby,” said Evans. “He still carried around a wallet that his son gave him almost 30 years ago.”
It's not hard to draw the line between Stout's penchant for saving and his coaching style — one that focused on baseball and football fundamentals.
“Back in the 1970s that structure and organization didn't go over well with students,” said Pallack, “but Coach Stout knew kids would benefit from those lessons.”
Barry Olsen played several seasons of baseball for Coach Stout and agrees that it was his “incredibly detailed” coaching style that “turned a bunch of regular guys into a team that rarely made stupid mistakes on the field.”
“They broke the mold when they made Coach Stout,” said Olsen, now an attorney practicing in Yuma.
“I have read so many letters from former players who credit my father for really influencing their lives,” said Daniel. “My dad gave players a chance to feel successful.”
One of those players was Matt Dusek. Dusek played for Coach Stout from 1989 through 1991. Now an officer with the Yuma Police Department, Dusek was on routine patrol in an area plagued by burglaries late one evening when he noticed a garage door left ajar. He knocked on the homeowner's door, only to find himself face to face with his former coach.
After reminding Stout to close his garage door, Dusek asked Coach Stout who his favorite second baseman was in the late '80s. “He looked more closely at me. Then he said, ‘Maaaaattthheewwww' in his unforgettable voice.”
Coach Stout's indelible voice, it seems, eventually made its way to every corner of Yuma's denizens — kind of like the crack of a home run baseball hit.
“He made such a difference in so many people's lives,” said Evans.
Evans and Stout can credit the Kofa High School Prom for bringing them together some 26 years ago. Their children attended the event together and rather than spending the evening dancing, the two were hatching a plan to set their parents up on a date. It worked.
A slight woman with an eternal smile, Evans speaks effortlessly about Stout's love of history, radio programs on NPR, riding his bicycle all over town, staying fit, his humility and his resolve — even at the very end of his life.
Stout's story would not be complete without one final tale that demonstrates the indelible mark he left on many.
During his last days, Stout's hospice caregiver, a woman named Debbie, overheard the family recounting stories of her patient's acclaimed coaching career. She mentioned that her two sons had played baseball at Kofa; she called them that night and both of them spoke of Stout's unquestionable and genuine influence on their lives.
The next day she returned to Stout's bedside, her eyes brimming with tears. “I wish I could wear Kofa red,” she said, “because it is an honor to take care of you.”
As with Debbie's boys and countless others, Dean Stout left a gift that lives and breathes in thousands of young men and women — both on the field and off.
“I never would have made it through law school had it not been for Coach Stout,” said Olsen. “I would hit a tough spot, think of him and all the time we spent practicing the fundamentals of baseball and apply those same principles to school.”
Pallack may have summed it up best: “He will always be Coach Stout.”