When Dave Bonham was asked to help coach his son’s baseball team in 1981, there was no way of him knowing just how far he would go with Little League®. Now, 36 years later, he has announced his retirement as the Little League West Region Director.
“It truly wasn’t a plan to come and work for Little League,” said Mr. Bonham. “It’s always been a point in my life never to have a plan because they always change.”
Mr. Bonham moved to California as a young boy in 1955. He played baseball as a child, but took more of an interest in music during his time at Glendora High School. After graduation, he was drafted into the Army and served his country during the Vietnam conflict.
After returning to the United States in 1969, Mr. Bonham and his wife, Gail, started a family. His son, Matthew began playing Little League Baseball® when he was nine and so began Mr. Bonham’s service to Little League. From 1982 to 1996, he held several positions with Citrus Little League in Rancho Cucamonga, as well as California District 21.
“One day I attended a rules clinic at the West Region headquarters (in San Bernardino, Ca.) and thought to myself, ‘This seems like a great place to work,’” said Mr. Bonham.
In 1997, he was asked to help out at the Western Region facility, working part-time in the supply room. It soon turned into a full-time position as an Assistant Region Director and soon thereafter, Mr. Bonham was offered the Director’s position.
“It was a huge job to me, and I was honestly concerned that I may not be able to do the job well and in the best interest of the kids,” said Mr. Bonham. “My friends and family, along with some of the folks from Little League International, assured me that I could handle it, and I accepted.”
The duties of West Region Director include making the final decision when it comes to operations at the regional center, volunteers, and other employees. Much like the responsibilities of a general manager, everything had to go through Mr. Bonham before any action is taken.
“He’s very good to work with and has a low-key personality,” said Brian Pickering, Little League West Region Assistant Director, who was an assistant along with Mr. Bonham before his promotion. “I never had a problem picking Dave’s brain or asking him for advice.”
“He really makes it a fun office to work in even though we deal with a lot here,” said April Meehleder, Little League West Region Assistant Director. “In December, I transferred from Little League International Headquarters in Williamsport, and I can say that he is the easiest person to work for from a management and training standpoint.”
Mr. Bonham has tried to see the lighter side of issues that have come up and tries to handle situations with a mild manor.
“No one is error free and when volunteers or other employees make mistakes, it’s important to me that they not worry about it too much,” said Mr. Bonham. “It’s very similar to baseball; if you make a mistake in the field, come back and do something great in your next at-bat.”
Some of his fondest memories include watching great players like Hank Conger and Steven Fife play against one another in the West Region Tournament games.
“I would have to say the best part of my job is seeing kids come back to San Bernardino as adults and maybe with children of their own,” said Mr. Bonham. “When they look at the pictures we have displayed around the office and reminisce, they share those memories and that is the best part.”
After four years as the West Region Director and nearly four decades of involvement with Little League, Bonham will be retiring after this year’s Little League Baseball World Series.
“Dave has always been committed to Little League’s mission of nurturing children, celebrating families, and developing community leaders,” said Steve Keener, Little League President and CEO. “From his service in the U.S. Army, to his time in the private sector, and through his years with Little League, Dave has shown to have big heart and a keen understanding of the impact that motivated volunteers can have on the lives of others. We wish him a long and happy retirement.”