Fred Warrecker hangs up uniform; son Donny takes over as coach of Dons baseball

The torch is being passed in the Santa Barbara High baseball program. But it’s staying in the same family.

Fred Warrecker is stepping down as head coach after 42 years at the helm and his son, Donny, is taking over the position, pending approval from the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Donny, 38, was co-head coach with his 76-year-old father this past season and has been part of the coaching staff for 10 years. He is a biology teacher at the high school.

Donny Warrecker will take over for his father, Fred, as head coach of the Santa Barbara High baseball team.

Donny Warrecker will take over for his father, Fred, as head coach of the Santa Barbara High baseball team.

While excited to take over the program, Donny felt a touch of sadness over the change. His dad is a coaching legend in the community.

“It’s tough because he’s been doing it for 42 years and he loves being a coach,” Donny said Monday. “I’m glad he’s still going to stay on as an adviser to the program. He’s still going to be at practices and will be down at the field almost every day.

“It’s the end of an incredible era, but in a way he’ll still be with me and helping out.”

Donny, the youngest of six Warrecker brothers, said his brother, Wes, who’s also part of the Dons baseball staff, will be his assistant coach. The rest of the coaching staff is still to be determined.

Donny played at SBHS, Hancock College and UCSB. In his senior year with the Gauchos in 2001, the team went 40-17 and played in the NCAA Regionals at Notre Dame. After graduating with a degree in biological sciences, he coached and played baseball in Sweden. In his second year, he guided the Leksand Lumberjacks to the Swedish National Championship.

He returned home, earned his teaching credential at Cal State Channel Islands and started teaching biology and coaching baseball at Santa Barbara High.

His dad retired as a teacher from the school in 2002.

Donny felt the time was right for the coaching change in the program.

“It was time for a transition,” he said. “I was co-coach with (my father) last year and it was time for me to take on the program as my program.”

That fact it was Fred’s son made the decision to change coaches less stressful for athletic director Joe Chenoweth.

“It was an easy decision (with it) being Donny,” he said. “As co-head coach last year, it was kind of in the works. There was not a second guess on who was going to fill that role.”

Fred Warrecker was on vacation and not available for comment.

Chenoweth said he had multiple conversations with Fred Warrecker about changes in the program.

“Fred came to (Principal) John (Becchio) and myself and said he sees the value of his son and where he is as a leader here at school, as a teacher and also on the field,” Chenoweth said. “He said: ‘Hey, this is an opportunity for Donny to take over.’

Chenoweth said the Warrecker name is synonymous with baseball in the community.

“Fred is tremendous not only to the game, but he has impacted so many youth in our community, many of whom have gone on to play in college and stepped up into the majors. He’s a huge factor in the development of young men.”

When he arrived at Santa Barbara High, Chenoweth, a former high school and collegiate baseball player, was impressed how Warrecker’s players conducted themselves on the field.

“They all wore their ball hats the correct way, their stirrups are on, their shirts are tucked in, they said, ‘Yes, sir,’ they’re shaking hands (with the coaches). That’s a tradition we’re really pleased that Donny is taking over,” Chenoweth said. “That was instilled in Donny and that’s what is going to continue in our young people in the program. You can’t help but respect that. It’s character building, and Fred was at the forefront of that. I’ve even mentioned that to other coaches.”

Said Donny: “We’re going to continue with the same tradition. We’re all about character. We want the kids to play the game the right way, to act right, do all the little things like hustle. The main focus is on the team.”

Donny considers taking over the baseball program at his alma mater “an absolute honor and, in a way, a dream come true.”

Call it destiny.

“They have these things in the yearbook, ‘Who’s most likely to come back and teach at Santa Barbara High,’” he said. “In my senior year, I was one of those students. I teach in the biology classroom that I had my mentor teacher, Irene Kasai, who taught her for 35 years.

“Now, I’m the head coach of the baseball team I played for.”

And the one his father coached for 42 years.