‘He touched so many lives’

Eustis High School base­ball coach David Lee dies at 55

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Martin E. Co­mas mco­[email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com

In need of a heart trans­plant, Eustis High School base­ball coach David Lee — who led the team to a state cham­pi­onship in 2000 and was the win­ningest man­ager in the school’s his­tory — died Thurs­day. He was 55.

“David was an old school base­ball coach who felt it was his job to de­velop young stu­dents into men who make pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to so­ci­ety,” said his brother Don Rixie of Lady Lake. “He was so pas­sion­ate about base­ball and the life lessons that it taught young men….He touched so many lives.”

On Lee’s Face­book page, friends, stu­dents and for­mer play­ers left mes­sages that called Lee a great coach and men­tor.

Eustis High ath­letic di­rec­tor Harry Tom­lin­son said Lee was about to pre­pare for the up­com­ing base­ball sea­son this month when he be­came ill with con­ges­tive heart fail­ure. Eustis foot­ball coach Mike Hay will now fill in as the school’s head base­ball coach this spring. The first day of pre­sea­son prac­tice is Jan. 28.

“He wasn’t shy about bark­ing at a kid,” Tom­lin­son said. “He be­lieved in dis­ci­pline, in prepa­ra­tion. But he also would sit down and talk with a kid to make sure they didn’t make the same mis­take again.”

It was Lee’s sec­ond stint as base­ball coach at Eustis. He started his ca­reer as a ju­nior-var­sity coach at Lees­burg High, his alma mater. He then coached at Mount Dora High School for four years start­ing in 1991, be­fore be­com­ing Eustis’ head coach in 1995.

In his last sea­son dur­ing his first stint at Eustis, Lee com­piled a 129-58 record and the team won the Class 3A state cham­pi­onship with a 3-2 victory over Fort My­ers Bishop Verot.

He later coached at Apopka High School for five sea­sons be­fore re­turn­ing to Eustis in 2011. His record at Eustis was 281-124.

Born in Lees­burg, Lee at­tended Cen­tral Florida Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Ocala on a base­ball schol­ar­ship, Rixie said. He also played base­ball at the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida, where he earned an English de­gree.

Al­though Lee focused on base­ball through­out the year, he some­times found time to play gui­tar and sing, his brother said.

On Jan. 3, Lee checked him­self into Lees­burg Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter. He then was trans­ported to UF Health Shands Hos­pi­tal in Gainesville, where he un­der­went a six-hour pro­ce­dure dur­ing which a de­vice was at­tached that re­lieves the work of the heart and lungs.

“He touched so many lives in so many dif­fer­ent ways,” Rixie said.

A fundrais­ing golf tour­na­ment will be held in Lee’s honor Feb. 9 at Black Bear Coun­try Club in Eustis to raise money to buy a new score­board for the Eustis High base­ball field. The new score­board for the field was some­thing Lee al­ways wanted, Rixie said.

Be­sides his brother, sur­vivors also in­clude his wife, Tina; daugh­ter, Sarah Lee of Cler­mont; step­sons, John Cis­ney of Eustis and Fer­nando Fino, who is in the Navy; step­daugh­ter Feli­cia Fino of Pen­sacola; his fa­ther John Lee of Lees­burg; and other brothers Sam Rixie of Fruit­land Park and LaVelle Rixie of Lake Jem.

HARRY TOM­LIN­SON

David Lee was Eustis High School’s win­ningest base­ball coach.

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