Never Give Up
Darren Dent throwing the first pitch at an A's game amongst his proud family and PHBA team
Never Give Up
Remembering Darren Dent
“Ball, high. Ball, high. Ball, high.” This was the second batter the 10-year-old pitcher struggled with. He looked to his coach, expecting a frustrated reproach. What he got was a huge Darren Dent grin and a booming suggestion: “I’d looove to see one in the dirt.”
Coach Darren. In our circle, he was Coach Darren of the PHBA Raptors, a then younger version of the Pleasant Hill Hawks baseball team. He coached basketball and soccer too – anything that any of his four kids was involved in – imbuing in those teams his genuinely positive approach to sports and life. If your family ever had the great fortune to be part of one of Coach Darren’s teams, you were impacted forever.
The 2006 Raptors was the last team Darren coached. His mid-season ALS diagnosis was as good as a death sentence to us all and the disease would move quickly to take control of his body. His ability to move and communicate was visibly affected, but his mind would stay sharp. Most would understandably have called it quits to spend time with their families, take care of business, and rail against the unfairness of it all, but not Coach Darren. He remained a positive role model throughout the remainder of the season, demonstrating that life needs to be lived and every moment seized. Nothing was ever taken too seriously, as laughter was a continual occurrence on and off the field despite the pain he felt.
The rest of the season didn’t have much to do with baseball for the team parents. We soon all donned Never Give Up bracelets in his honor, cheered louder and felt happiness and sadness deeper. It surprised no one that Coach Darren finished out the season, with a joyful league win, no less. The year ended with a lasting memory for all. The Raptors had the privilege of taking the field along with the Oakland A’s while Coach Darren threw out the first pitch. Our cheering section was the loudest and proudest as well as a bit emotional. Proud of our sons but even prouder of our coach on the mound, wearing the biggest grin, appreciating life’s special moments, knowing none of them is guaranteed.
Darren William Dent, lovingly nicknamed “Hoody,” among others, passed away peacefully on February 26, 2017. He was just 51 years old and had been living with ALS for 11 years. In 2009, he wrote in his blog about the “very lonely decision” he would soon need to make – whether or not to go on a ventilator. “There are so many factors to consider. It is very overwhelming!” he wrote. “I can't fathom the thought of no longer being part of my kids’ lives or never being able to see them ever again.”
When it came down to it, he chose to extend his life to be around for his children. In a speech from his memorial service, Darren’s sister Ramey said, “From my brother I learned that our kids are the most important priority, period. Trevor, Ryan, Kyle and Carly, you were always his most important priority.”
Ramey also wrote, “Family and friends are the most important thing in life, and even better when your family are your friends and your friends are your family. I was lucky enough to have a best friend who also was my brother. Darren was fun, and his lust for life was contagious, even when he couldn't move a muscle.”
In spite of his long battle, ALS didn’t define Darren. Instead, his zeal for life, his love for his family - children and grandchild, his sisters, his parents, and dear friends; hard work, grit, and determination; mastery of the BBQ; happiness gleaned from watching a racehorse called Runningforhoody and a great love of sports and betting; honesty described by family as “brutal” and “take-no-prisoners”; his openness, wicked sense of humor, and thunderous laugh, rarely withheld, paint his picture.
Darren’s parents, Bill and Parry Dent, were his primary caregivers over the last several years. Parry read aloud a letter she wrote to him: “Your ALS journey has been profound and brought new meaning to the terms life challenge and inner strength. I see you cope with this disease with incredible dignity, courage, grace, bravery, as well as great sorrow, but with amazing humor and laughter, as well... That joy of life that you were born with still comes through, loud and clear! Caring for you is an honor and labor of love, and I couldn’t be more proud or more in awe of you. I’ll love you forever, Hoody---you truly are my son, my hero.”
Donations can be made in Darrren Dent’s memory to to the ALS Association at webgw.alsa.org.