Former Sunapee Coach Elected to NHIAA Hall
Sunapee — Center Street in North Walpole, N.H., is like many other small-town streets across the country. The road that divides the street is narrow, the houses are close together and the people who lived there back when Dave Barry grew up cared about each other. It was a great way to grow up, and laid the foundation for Barry’s adult life — one that took quite a number of twists and turns from those days on Center Street culminating with a stop next fall into the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
Like a lot of other kids growing up, Barry would get on his bike summer mornings, baseball cap perched on his head, scruffy sneakers and a baseball glove dangling from the handlebars and set out to find a ball game. Barry usually ended up behind the only school in town where kids would gather to play all day, breaking only for meals and darkness.
It was primitive baseball. Sometimes the balls were taped, the bases were grain sacks filled with sand and the bats held together by little nails and more black tape. But all summer long this was like playing at Fenway Park. The season only ended when field became covered with snow.
Barry really never got very far from that small-town living. After graduating from Plymouth State College, he took a physical education job in the Sunapee school district. He liked Sunapee. He liked it so much there that he stayed for 35 years.
When Barry first got to Sunapee, principal Dave Sherburne asked if he would like to coach baseball or soccer.
“That decision was easy,” Barry said recently from his retirement home in The Villages in Florida. “I didn’t know anything about soccer.”
He also knew a little about volleyball, having played on an intramural team in college. When Sunapee was looking for a fall sport for girls after field hockey didn’t work out, Barry pushed to get volleyball a varsity sport, and he became the head coach.
Barry coached those two sports for the next 30-plus years. His successes were mind boggling. Between baseball and volleyball, Barry’s teams made 24 trips to the state championships with 10 state titles. His won 893 games.
In baseball, Barry racked up 432 wins, six championships and four runner-up trophies. In volleyball, he earned 461 wins, four championships and six runners-up.
“Barry spent his whole career at Sunapee and was a very valued teacher and member of the community,” said Sunapee High School Principal Sean Moynihan, who nominated Barry. “And best of all, he is a very good man.”
And the baseball tradition has continued, as the Lakers were Division IV state champions in 2011 and 2012.
But while the program was first-rate, the playing field hardly measured up in the early years. For the first 25 years, Barry’s teams played on what is now a youth field near Route 11. The field had a swamp that ran through left and center field and very short right field that ran adjacent to the road — drivers traveled by the field at their own risk during games as the road was a mere 200 feet from home plate.
According to the ground rules, no matter how far a ball traveled over that fence — even to the Catholic church across the street — it was just a ground rule double. There was also a stream that weaved through the field and in back of the home bench (no dugouts) to the rear of the backstop.
“I kind of felt embarrassed when other teams came to play us, but that was the best we had,” said Barry. Today, thanks to the Rotary Club, the Lakers have a well-maintained home field behind the school.
Barry admits he was always blessed with good players — especially pitchers. During the 1988-89 seasons, Sunapee was 35-0. Shaun Sanders was the winning pitcher in all six tournament games.
Other noteworthy pitches included Kim Sorento, John Hendrix, Dave Colby and Richie Sanders. Steve Butler was a slugger who regularly put the ball out to Route 11. However, the best player that ever played at Sunapee was most likely Dan Calverley.
Calverley played just one year at Sunapee in 1994. He was a big Australian, a 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and was just a masher at the plate.
“I remember asking him how he could hit so well, and he told me he could see the rotation of the ball,” said Barry. “He could tell when a breaking ball coming because he could see the rotation. That’s amazing.”
Calverley, along with other Sunapee players, Mike Mark, John Hudson and Colby, played American Legion baseball for Windsor that summer and led the team to its only state championship. Calverley was the state tourney MVP.
Barry brought some personal quirks to the ballpark. He hardly ever wore a baseball uniform for the games — only if it were mandatory. He also never coached third base, thinking he had a better handle on the game from the bench.
He also had a reputation of not liking the bunt.
“That’s a misnomer,” he said. “Believe me, I never liked to give up an out for a base, but depending where we were in the lineup, we did some bunting. Listen, hitting is the fun part of baseball, and I always wanted our players to have fun.”
Barry is already in the Plymouth State University Hall of Fame and in 1996 got the Walter Smith Award from the NHIAA for service to New Hampshire’s youth. Barry’s induction into the NHIAA Hall of Fame will be Nov. 17 at the Marriott in Concord.