Jose “Coach” Ray Chavez died March 12, 2020, at the age of 79. He was preceded in death by his wife, Esther Chavez, and survived by three sons, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Coach Chavez coached baseball and softball in our community for 35 years. He coached youth league baseball from 1977 to 1983, winning a Florida State Championship in 1982. From 1984 to 1986 Coach Chavez was Head Baseball coach at Niceville High School. From 1988 to 2001 he coached the Eglin Air Force Base Civil Engineering Softball team, winning five Air Forces Command National Championships. Coach Chavez returned to youth sports in 2002, coaching Little League travel baseball for four years. From 2007 to 2011 he was a volunteer Assistant Baseball Coach for Choctawhatchee High School.
Coach Chavez won on the field. He was known for winning 90% of his games, almost no matter the talent on his squad. He believed in his players, and they knew it. Coach Chavez cared about his players off the field as well. Professional baseball player Bryan Baker said, “Coach Ray’s lessons were always beyond baseball — whether it be telling you to give it your best effort 100% of the time, or just to have fun and encourage one another, you could apply much of his advice to your life, to become a better person and teammate.”
Former Choctaw Principal Cindy Gates said, “the children of this community are better because of Ray Chavez.” The 2018 Colonel Al Byrne Award was presented to Ray Chavez on February 16th, 2018, at the 49th All Sports Association Awards Banquet.