CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A South Bay Little League Baseball program will rename its field in honor of Randy Whitney, a beloved coach and board member who died this month after contracting COVID-19.
“He had a big influence on a lot of kids,” the league’s president David Ovadia said. “Kids would gather around him. He was just a big presence.”
Whitney, 49, died Sept. 1 and was honored in a ceremony earlier this month at the El Camino Memorial Chapel in his home community of Chula Vista, his obituary shows.
He led Eastlake’s 12U All-Stars this past summer as the team made another push to get to the Little League World Series. Whitney last coached in late July and was not there as the team finished second in the Southern California championship round because he had gotten sick.
“During the semifinals he couldn’t coach the game. We knew he was at home. After the boys lost the tournament, he just got worse and worse,” Ovadia explained.
A GoFundMe campaign set up to benefit his surviving family, including his wife Ana and sons Christian and Matthew, notes he had a “gung-ho, Mamba pump-up mentality” that benefitted players and their families.
“He always knew how to bring the best out of all the players,” said Levi Aguirre, previously a 12-year-old All-Star in the program. “We all thought he would be fine, but he was in the hospital for a really long time. It was very sad.”
Word of Whitney’s passing eventually reached the local Lowe’s store. Assistant manager Manuel Rodriguez said they wanted to help with a project to honor the coach.
“We’re going to be cleaning up the field, the parking lot — do some renovations,” Rodriguez said. “It’s something simple, but also we feel is going to make a big impact.”
It was a team effort Thursday, with a group of volunteers working together to spruce the ballpark. The group renovated a field bathroom, touched up paint on doors and other parts of the facility, completed some landscaping projects and cleaned up the parking lot.
The improvements will give way to more tributes to Coach Whitney during the coming season. “We’re going to have a patch on all their jerseys, on the left side, saying his motto, which was ‘Let’s get it!'” Ovadia said.