Dave “Hawk” Wilder, who coached the Glendale Community College softball team the past 13 seasons, died Sunday at his home in Northridge. He was 70.
Glendale college assistant softball coach Sal Pizzo confirmed Wilder’s death Monday. Pizzo said Wilder died of natural causes. Wilder, a Native American, was born June 27, 1942, and was a member of the Karuk Tribe.
Wilder coached the Vaqueros from 2001-13, going 213-274-2 overall and 124-141 in division play.
Pizzo, who has served as Wilder’s assistant the past six seasons, said he had been living with Wilder for the past several months.
“He had been suffering from post polio and it’s something he had when he was younger,” Pizzo said. “It had been inflicting him [lately] to the point where he had trouble walking and needed a walking cane and a motor scooter to help him get around.
“I met him three or four years before I came to GCC. Hawk gave me a great opportunity to get my feet wet at the collegiate level. He made me an outfielder coach and I learned a lot from him. He cared very much about his players and wanted them to transfer to four-year schools and succeed there. He wanted to make the players’ experiences positive at Glendale.”
Pizzo said he saw Wilder around 5:30 a.m. Sunday before Pizzo went to coach a travel ball game. Pizzo found out about Wilder’s death after Wilder’s sister, Jamie, left a voice message on his cell phone.
Pizzo said Jamie had called Wilder to check up on her brother. When Wilder didn’t answer, Pizzo said, Jamie became concerned and went to Wilder’s residence and found him unresponsive before calling the paramedics.
Glendale college men’s Athletic Director John Cicuto said Wilder’s health began to deteriorate over the past year.
“We are very saddened about Dave’s death,” said Cicuto, who added that Pizzo will be the program’s next coach. “I met with him early last week and he was weak and his voice was weak.
“It was very hard to see him deteriorate and suffer like that. He told me he just couldn’t coach anymore and I told him to be strong. He had a great personality. Every time I saw him, he would thank me for hiring him as the coach. He found a way to always make you laugh and smile. He wanted to teach his players how to be good athletes and people in terms of work ethic. Dave took a lot of pride in being a Native American and he was a class guy.”
Kelly Korras pitched at Glendale college during the 2007 and 2008 seasons before transferring to Chaminade University of Honolulu.
Korras, who was named the Western State Conference's Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore in 2008 after recording a 1.26 earned-run average, said Wilder taught her plenty of principals pertaining to softball.
“I had known Dave for many years and he wanted you to be the best player and person you could be academically and in athletics,” said Korras, who is head coach at Westridge School and competed last year in the International Softball Federation's 13th Women's World Fastpitch Championship for South Africa. “He helped me with my hitting and pitching.
“He found players who were not quite ready to go to a four-year school right away out of high school or people who just wanted to get their start at GCC. He wanted you to learn and enjoy softball.”
Jena Kaser, who served as Glendale’s catcher the past two seasons, said Wilder worked with her on various catching and hitting techniques en route to receiving All-Western State Conference Blue Division postseason honors each season with the Vaqueros.
“I improved right from the start because he was very knowledgeable and passionate about the team and softball, “ said Kaser, who earned a spot on the second team after batting .407 with a team-high eight home runs and 37 runs batted in this past season and will attend Sonoma State in the fall. “He put a lot of time into the program and had a lot of connections.
“He was a good role model who did the very best he could.”
Glendale finished 17-21, 7-11 in the division this season. In 2012, the Vaqueros finished 30-15 and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2002 after placing second in the division at 12-6. The Vaqueros went on to the California Community College Athletic Assn.'s Southern California Super Regionals for the first time in the program’s history.
Wilder succeeded Craig Becker after the 2000 season.
Wilder also coached baseball at Verdugo Hills High, softball at Milken High and served as a hitting and pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Fire Stix, a professional softball team. Wilder had been involved with softball since 1974, coaching various travel softball teams.
Pizzo said services are pending.