For nearly 45 years, the name Jim Danley and Eaton baseball were synonymous with Colorado championships.
But Danley’s Eaton coaching career in the small Northern Colorado community, a town that basked in the fame his teams brought to the community and school, ended like many successful programs — in controversy.
Regardless of the ending, the relationship remains a special one. Consider this: after the Reds notched their 11th Colorado high school state championship last May, Danley’s program shared the nation’s top prep winning percentage at 83.1 percent, tied with Owasso, Oklahoma coach Larry Turner and above Marc Johnson’s thirdranked Cherry Creek. That Eaton team was named MaxPreps’ Small School National Champion, a designation determined by computer rankings.
His high school teams have compiled an 807-162-2 record, the best in Colorado. His Reds were 11-10 in title games, made 29 Final Four appearances and won 23 straight regional championships. The Reds also captured 29 regional titles and another 36 league championships during his tenure. In addition, his summer Legion A teams won another 10 state titles, giving Eaton 21 state baseball titles since 1994.
The legendary coach began building the Eaton juggernaut in 1972 when he took over a program that had enjoyed moderate success. In his first year, the Reds finished 13-5, a nice start to a program that earned its first state playoff bid under Danley in 1976, before losing in the semifinals.
With its foundation in place, Eaton continued to drive for a state title. The team became a fixture at the state tournament, but did not get back to the state championship game until 1993, only to come up short again in that contest, losing 10-5 to Gunnison in an affair that started at 10:30 p.m. and concluded at 1 a.m. after multiple weather and field condition problems.
In 1994, after yet another strong regular season and a pair of wins in the state playoffs, the Reds went against Olathe, a perennial state contender. Falling behind early 1-0, the Reds scrambled for three runs to capture the first of 11 high school state titles, 3-1. The rest, as they say, is history.
Throughout his career, Danley has been a coach who gives back to the sport. Coaches from across the nation seek his advice on the game, and how to teach the famous knuckle curve which puts less stress on a player’s arm. The venerable coach has always taken the time to help. Danley, too, has been ably assisted through the last 44 years by Bob Ervin who came with Danley in 1972 and has been a cornerstone in the Reds’ success since.
Danley was inducted into the Colorado High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2007, a rarity for an active coach. Only Dick Katte and Johnson share that honor with Danley and now all are members of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. He also is a member of the Colorado Dugout Club Hall of Fame.
His high school teams have compiled an 807-162-2 record, the best in Colorado.