When the last out was called Thursday in McEachern’s final home game of the 2012 season, Joiner, the Indians’ longtime baseball coach officially celebrated his upcoming retirement with family and friends — and even a few adversaries — on the field where he shared most of those memories.
“I had no clue,” said Joiner of the post-game celebration that took place. “I
didn’t really know what was going on. When I started seeing guys huddling up and coming out at the fence along the dugout, that’s when I knew something was going on. They were guys who had played for me and meant a lot to me over the years.”
Representing each of the 30 years Joiner has been a part of the McEachern baseball program, more than 30 former players — as well as former coaches who worked with and against Joiner — huddled around the pitcher’s mound as Joiner, his wife, Beth, and daughters, Megan and McKenzie, were feted at home plate by his current players.
Joiner, who has served as McEachern’s head coach since 1995 after serving as an assistant coach from 1983-94, was presented with a bat signed by all of the current and former players in attendance. He was also given a plaque that included the 2012 roster, and he was wished well in retirement, with those in attendance thanking him for enriching the lives of those he touched.
“It’s really unbelievable,” Joiner told the crowd. “I’ve had the most wonderful 30 years coaching here. You’ve made this my home, and it will always be my home.”
As head coach, Joiner led the Indians to three region titles, 14 state playoff appearances and one quarterfinal-round showing in 2001. He has 260 career victories.
“Some of the greatest individuals I’ve had the honor of sharing these experiences with are on this field,” Joiner said. “They’re family and will always be family.”
Joiner noted that there wasn’t any magical moment that led him to realize that this would be his final season. He made the decision during the winter break and used advice given to him many years ago from the principal who hired him to coach and teach at McEachern.
“I decided in December to call it quits,” Joiner said. “Ralph Williams, the guy who hired me, gave me some advice. He said, ‘You’re going to know when it’s time.’
“I had time to think over the break and realized it was time to move on to another part of my life. All of my decisions over the years have been about the kids and this school — not myself. It was just time for a decision to be made for me, and I felt good about it.”
Joiner’s peers are happy with is decision, although they’re sad to see him go.
“First of all, David is an outstanding baseball man,” said Harrison coach Mark Elkins, who’s been coaching against Joiner since 1999. “He’s done a great job over there since he took over. His teams will always play hard and do a sound job. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a good person who takes his responsibilities as a mentor very seriously.”
“He’s an awesome guy. We’ll miss him. He stood for all the right things in baseball.”
Tom Callahan, who’s spent 15 years at North Cobb, including seven as its head coach, also had high praise for Joiner.
“The first thing that comes to mind is, from top to bottom, David is a first-class guy,” said Callahan, whose team beat McEachern 11-6 on Thursday. “He’ll give you the shirt off his back if you ask him. He’s a guy I’ve really respected over the years.
“From a baseball standpoint, I’ve always dreaded going over (to McEachern) to play his teams, and I’ve dreaded him coming (to North Cobb). His teams are always prepared, and they play hard.”
Walton coach Shane Amos also faced Joiner a few times, when Amos coached two seasons at Pebblebrook. Another Cobb County veteran, he’s been with the Raiders for 24 seasons, including the last 10 seasons as head coach.
“Dave’s meant a lot to baseball in the area,” Amos said. “His wood bat tournament is a great part of the high school summer leagues and brings a tremendous amount of talent and people to the county. He’s done a great job at McEachern and has been a great ambassador for baseball.
“We played each other quite a bit a long time ago when I was at Pebblebrook. I remember his teams were always competitive, and always well-coached. You always know you’re not going to just beat a Joiner-coached team, because they always play hard.”