Longtime Helena Senators Legion baseball coach Dave Thennis is hanging up his spikes.
Over the course of a history-making career that spanned three decades from 1998-2017, Thennis compiled a lifetime record of 656-522 for a .557 winning percentage. During his 20 seasons, the Senators averaged 33 wins a year. His teams won three State AA championships (2001-03), qualified for the State tournament 16 times, and posted 17 .500-plus seasons. All of which are team records.
When the Senators captured the State title in 2001, it was only the second American Legion baseball crown in local history, and the first in 33 years, since 1968.
But despite all the numbers, records and championships, what Thennis — who started out as a pitcher for the Reps and Senators in the late 1980s — will remember the most are the thousands of people he was associated with in the Helena Legion baseball program.
“Coach ‘T’ always put doing the right thing ahead of all else, including winning,” related Helena pitching coach Seth O’Connell, who was a player on two of the Senators’ State championship teams. “His passion and respect for the game is unmatched, and he approaches everything he does with great pride and preparation.”
O’Connell noted that Thennis “always put the kids first,” and he insisted things were done the right way, with class.
“Wow. Where do I start? I have a million thoughts,” said Thennis, when asked to sum up his career after announcing his retirement on Wednesday. “I really just keep thinking of the players I have coached. The coaches I’ve worked with, and the opponents we played. What a collection of memories, I have learned so much from them.”
Thennis, who retires as the second-longest tenured AA coach, after Brent Hathaway (Missoula Mavs), was known for his high baseball IQ, and his intense, fiercely competitive nature. But he could also be good-natured and fun loving, and had a reputation as a classy sportsman — win, lose or draw.
“Dave had no tolerance for poor sportsmanship … his teams wouldn’t win every game, but they carried themselves as good citizens,” O’Connell stated. “He always knew what to say, and what the kids needed to hear, in any situation. He gave me goose bumps hundreds of times.”
O’Connell, who was named the MVP of the 2002 State Tournament, recounted how “Coach T taught me how to play the game the right way,” to always approach it one pitch at a time.
“He is, and always will be, my role model,” O’Connell said.
Thennis said that he’s “proud of our accomplishments,” and thankful to have been a part of such a great program.
“Hopefully my players found value in their experience,” Thennis said. “I will miss practice, bus rides and tight ball games. But mostly I’ll miss the players and coaches.”