TAMPA — Bobby Diez will undergo knee replacement surgery this summer.
At age 60, the Chamberlain softball coach and driver's education teacher admits he hurts quite a bit. This is the 18th season since he returned to coaching.
Diez said he plans to join the state's Deferred Retirement Option Program this fall, adding he has a minimum of three years left until he steps aside.
The question now is if he can get one more shot at a state title? And if so, is this the team to claim it?
Diez appreciates each moment of every practice and takes great pride in the Chiefs' 16-0 start this season. The Chiefs have prepared themselves for the stretch run beginning today in the Kissimmee Klassic, a tournament of top-flight talent and arguably Chamberlain's toughest task to date.
Many of Diez's previous teams have started this strong.
He took over Chamberlain's softball program in 1992, and since then the Chiefs have been to the playoffs 14 times, including six final fours, two state finals and the 2003 Class 5A state title.
Diez has come a long way since he coached football at Jefferson in the 1970s and worked alongside Jefferson baseball coach Pop Cuesta.
He quit the education business in 1978 for a chance to make more money developing apartments. Diez said he made enough to take ski vacations and deep-sea fishing trips. A recession in the 1980s forced him into the sod business, and after a few years of backbreaking work, a flood ultimately sent him back to his true love of education in the '90s.
"What I learned during that time is I'm a teacher and a coach," Diez said. "You don't know how much you miss it until you leave it."
This year's Chiefs have a bunch of solid players, including five seniors set to join Division I programs next fall (pitcher Alex Hartshorn, North Carolina Pembroke; second baseman Marissa Menendez, UCF; shortstop Samantha Holle, Florida; catcher Kasie Hatfield, Penn State; first baseman Stephanie Medina, USF). Freshmen and sophomores fill the outfield and have been key contributors.
Chamberlain swept the season series against rival Plant and won key games against Riverview and Gaither, outscoring opponents by a combined 180-10.
Diez has had teams loaded from top to bottom, and in his office pictures and newspaper clippings of former players dress the walls.
"We've been very fortunate here to create something," Diez said. "… We practice and get ready for April. We want to be good in April."
Izzy Gould can be reached at izzy firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3458.