Local softball coach dies at 65

Dan Berry, who formed and coached the Crescenta Valley High softball team to a CIF Southern Section championship and 20 Pacific League titles, died Wednesday morning. He was 65.

Berry was taken to Verdugo Hills Hospital on Oct. 11 after suffering two seizures inside the Crescenta Valley coaches’ office. After paramedics arrived, Berry went into cardiac arrest and was treated at the scene before being taken to the hospital. On Friday, he was taken off a ventilator and moved into the hospice wing of the hospital, where he died early Wednesday.

Berry coached the Falcons for two stints totaling 27 seasons, beginning when he started the program in 1983. He coached until 1994 before coaching at L.A. Pierce College until his return to Crescenta Valley in 1998. In 1986, the softball team won a CIF Southern Section championship, the first and only in the program’s history and the first girls’ team title.

At Crescenta Valley, Berry went 570-117 overall and 240-24 in the Pacific League. The Falcons went undefeated in league eight times between 1998-09 and won 20 or more games 20 times under his guidance.

“I don’t have any words that would be able to serve justice for what he did for the program,” Crescenta Valley girls’ Athletic Director Peter Kim said. “He wore many different hats and he did that so well with everybody he came into contact with.”

Under Berry, who began the program in 1983, the Falcons went 570-117 overall (.829 winning percentage) and 240-25 in the Pacific League. Crescenta Valley shared the league championship last season with Burroughs before falling to Oak Park, 6-5, in a Division III first-round playoff contest. The Falcons went 21-4, 13-1 in league last season.

“He recognized the importance of the program at Crescenta Valley,” said former Crescenta Valley Principal Sam Nicholson. “He helped make it a popular sport and he established the program. He developed pride and tradition. He spent so much of his own time when the school finally got its own field and he kept it in great shape. It’s just so sad for me to know that he’s gone.”

Nicholson and Jan McCreary, then the school’s girls’ athletic director, hired Berry in the fall of 1982 to run a program that would go on to be one of the most successful in the area.

“At that time, we were in the beginning stages of girls’ athletics taking off,” Nicholson said. “Jan thought we needed a softball team and she and I got together to look for a coach.

“We went to a lot of places in our search and Dan’s name kept coming up. He was calm, well-organized and he had a lot of respect from everybody. That’s exactly what we were looking for. Jan said to go ahead and hire him and it was one of the best decisions that I ever made.”

Berry first coached at Crescenta Valley from 1983-94, going 250-41 overall and leading the Falcons to eight league championships. However, he sought an opportunity to move up to the next level in the coaching profession and accepted a head coaching position at L.A. Pierce College. From 1995-97, Berry led Pierce to two appearances in the state playoffs.

Following the 1997 season at Pierce, Berry was hired by L.A. Mission College to build a program similar to the one he structured for Crescenta Valley and Pierce. Mission opted to cancel its new program and Berry returned to Crescenta Valley in 1998.

Berry, a former All-Area Coach of the Year, had an impressive list of players who donned the Crescenta Valley uniform over the years. Many earned All-Area, all-league and All-CIF honors, including Heather Lindstrom, Leilani Artis, Stacy Atwood, Deneil Dover, Lisa Erickson, Hope Robertshaw, Melinda Moulden, Becca Baldridge, Meredith Cervenka, Melanie McCauley, Amanda Peek, Baillie Kirker, Alyssa Sovereign and Erin Ashby.

Berry guided the Falcons to back-to-back undefeated league championships in 2008 and 2009. Crescenta Valley dropped a 3-2 decision to La Serna in the Division III semifinals. In 2000, Crescenta Valley lost, 1-0, to Corona in a Division II semifinal game.

On May 2, 2008, Crescenta Valley posted a 23-1 road win against Muir. The win was Berry’s 500th at Crescenta Valley.

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