Thirty years ago David Machtolf’s late uncle Dave and father Mark – Gonzaga University’s baseball coach – were multisport stars whose talents cemented their place among the greatest athletes in Gonzaga Prep lore.
As such, David arrived as a G-Prep legacy carrying the weight of expectations.
“His dad was one of the best athletes to come through this town,” Bullpups baseball coach Brian Munhall said. “Those are not easy expectations to live up to.”
Yet David has carved out his own G-Prep niche during a four-year varsity baseball career that winds down with postseason play this week and next. And he will continue that career next year playing for his dad.
“It’s been my dream since I was 5 years old to go play baseball at Gonzaga University,” David said.
He is the namesake of a man he never had the chance to meet. Dave Machtolf went on to play football at Notre Dame until injury cut short his career after two varsity seasons. His life ended at age 24 following a 1987 auto accident in Spokane.
“I knew when I lost my brother in the crash I would one day honor him when I had a child,” Mark said of a brother two years his elder. “It was a no-brainer to name David after him.”
Mark went on to Stanford, where he played football and baseball. After two years he concentrated on the sport that became his livelihood.
The brothers coached G-Prep’s American Legion ball team together. Mark connected with GU’s then-coach Steve Hertz while playing summer baseball and wound up a Bulldog.
Before becoming head coach nine years ago, he was David’s youth coach for a couple of summers.
“He taught me basically everything I know now,” David said. “Be a great teammate is what he stressed from the beginning.”
David has not only been a great teammate, but a great contributor during his entire Bullpups career. Beginning as a freshman, he started several games, pitched relief in a handful of games and played right field.
“It was really intimidating,” David said. “The first guy I saw was (Central Valley pitcher) Scott Simon. He’s now at WSU.”
Munhall, who didn’t become G-Prep’s head coach until David’s sophomore season, said he heard that David was rushed a bit to varsity.
“They were just trying to get his feet wet because he was going to be an impact guy over time,” Munhall said.
David became a regular as a sophomore and still struggled at times, his coach said. Last year he became one of the better Bullpups, earning second-team All-GSL as a pitcher.
“I don’t think there’s an inning he hasn’t played the last two years,” Munhall said. “And whatever happened last summer on the (American Legion) Bandits he made a huge, huge, jump.”
David pitched every fourth day and played outfield for a team that finished second in state. This spring he is 3-2 for the Bullpups (both losses by shutout), but compiled a 1.00 ERA.
The outfield – his preferred position – is where his future lies.
Standing 6-foot and weighing 165 pounds, both David and his father say he will have to get bigger, stronger and swing the bat better in order to play in college.
“I told David, ‘If you want to play at Gonzaga (University) you better walk in there with a Mark Machtolf swing,’ ” former GU player Munhall said. “There’s no better teacher than your dad.”
The toughest thing about coaching the Bulldogs is that dad hasn’t been able to watch his son play much.
“That’s the sad part of it of it,” Mark said.
If there’s a storybook ending, dad and son will see a lot of each other in the coming years and David Machtolf’s dream will have come true.