Daryl Horn got into baseball and other sports when he was very, very young.
He was just 3 years old when some of his relatives outfitted him in full catcher’s gear one day.
“He didn’t really have a chance, because he was trained from an early age to block the ball and that sort of thing,” Horn’s father, Dan Horn, said Wednesday.
“We used to throw the ball around with him and bat with him. That’s where it all started.”
It led to a lifetime in athletics, both as a player and later as a coach and manager, for Daryl Horn, who was born in Lancaster, California (Los Angeles County) in 1967. He later lived in Bishop (Inyo County) before his family moved to the Bay Area.
He was a three-sport star at Novato High School, earning All-Marin County Athletic League honors in football, basketball and baseball. From there, he settled on one sport in college, and he was a standout in baseball at the College of Marin-Kentfield for two years and then at Sacramento State for two years.
He played on one of the greatest teams in Sacramento State school history – the 1988 team that finished as the runner-up at the NCAA Division II World Series. Earlier this year, Horn and his teammates were inducted into the school’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
“He had an extremely high baseball IQ, which was parlayed into his success as a youth coach,” said Kirk Smith, a close friend of Horn’s going back to their days of playing Babe Ruth League baseball together in Novato. “He was the best teammate you could ever have, the most amazing teammate that you could ever have.
“We had so much in common, from sports, athletics and movies – very similar interests. He always had a charisma about him, whether he was 13 years old or 50 years old, that lit up a room, whether it was the history room at Novato High School or a board room for Napa Little League. He was always that way. It was just the kind of guy he was.”
Daryl Horn and his youngest son, Joe, an eighth-grade student at Redwood Middle School, and two others died on Saturday when the vehicle that they were in was involved in a hit-and-run crash in San Pablo. Daryl Horn’s brother-in-law, Troy Biddle, and Daryl’s nephew, Baden Biddle, from Bainbridge Island, Washington, were also killed in the five-vehicle crash, which occurred on Interstate 80 at the San Pablo Dam Road exit.
Daryl Horn was 50. His son, Joe, was 14. Troy Biddle was 52. His son, Baden Biddle, was 12.
Contra Costa County prosecutors are charging a Sacramento man, Fred Lowe, 47, who was arrested in connection with the multiple-fatality hit and run crash, with four counts of murder, according to eastbaytimes.com.
The driver of the vehicle in which the Horns and Biddles were passengers was Jared Horn, Daryl’s oldest son and a 2016 Vintage High School graduate who is a pitcher on the UC Berkeley baseball team.
Jared Horn, named as the Napa County Male Athlete of the Year in August of 2016 and the All-Napa County Player of the Year for baseball in July of 2016, was the only survivor of the wreck.
Jared Horn is at home, with his family.
They were on their way home from the 31st annual Oyster Basketball Tournament – a father and son event – in San Carlos.
Tight-knit sports community
The deadly crash has rocked the Napa Valley sports community, as Daryl Horn, a Napa resident, was well-known and highly respected for his work with Napa Little League, the Napa Valley Baseball Club, CYO and Napa Parks and Recreation youth basketball. Joe, an honor-roll student with a perfect 4.0 GPA, had recently been selected as an all-star for his Napa Saints youth football team at the center position.
“Daryl was a family man. His love for his wife, Denise, and his three kids, Greta (21), Jared (19), and Joe was endless,” said Billy Smith, a Vintage High assistant baseball coach and longtime youth coach. “It was very evident in his coaching, as well. Daryl loved coaching kids the game of baseball. Daryl spent countless hours teaching the kids the right way to play the game. Daryl’s attention to detail was valuable, from how to wear your hat to sliding into home plate correctly. It was an honor to coach side by side with Daryl (with NVBC).”
Daryl Horn did not just coach, but imparted life lessons on to his players over the years. He gave each of the players on his teams a nickname. He took time to work with young players, providing them with instruction and fundamentals, sharing his knowledge and wisdom, helping them with everything from hitting and fielding to base running and pitching.
“Of course, he loved the game of baseball and the competition of it and all of that,” Denise Horn said. “But when he was talking to the boys, and what he wanted them to take away from it, was becoming a good citizen, being a good teammate, doing your best, learning from your mistakes. ‘What’s next?’ was his quote that he used pretty much with anything. Don’t be down on yourself, because there was an error. ‘What’s next? What can you take away from that?’ ”
A software sales executive, he found time to coach and manage Napa Little League baseball teams and serve on the board for 13 years. He was a board member with the Napa Valley Baseball Club. He was also a youth basketball coach and was in the stands at each of his children’s games.
His daughter, Greta, was an All-Monticello Empire League and All-Napa County volleyball player for Vintage and is now a senior at UC Davis, majoring in environmental policy with a minor in English. Jared is a sophomore at Cal and has honored his commitment to play for the Bears after being selected the 20th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. Joe was a three-sport athlete, playing youth football for the Napa Saints, CYO and Napa Rec basketball, and played in the Napa Valley Baseball Club.
“I coached (Daryl) all the way up to when he was 13. He learned from a lot of different folks and then watched and observed and liked that involvement,” said Dan Horn, who is retired as a postal manager. “He really took it to another level. He was just so good with kids. He had nicknames for every kid that ever played for him. You can meet a kid here today in Napa and he’ll tell you that he knew my son, and he’ll tell you what his nickname was.”
Background in sports
It was in 1976 when the Horn family moved to Bishop and in 1980 when they made the move to Novato.
Daryl’s late mom, Helen Lautenschlager, was an athlete, playing tennis and field hockey.
“The whole realm then of activities for the kids revolved around some sport,” said Dan Horn. “We kept them signed up in something or engaged in something growing up until we got into organized team sports.”
Daryl was the starting quarterback on the football team at Novato High and graduated in 1985.
He was a catcher and also played in the outfield in baseball.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him, as the father and husband he was, and the impact he made on this community is overwhelming,” said Kirk Smith, the Director of Marketing for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo.
The two were teammates on the baseball team at College of Marin.
“I love him like a brother,” said Smith.
Daryl Horn could also light up a room like few others.
“He was like the mayor. He knew everybody,” said Steve Porter, a 1988 Vintage High graduate. “The guy was just incredible.”
Daryl Horn played the 1988 and 1989 seasons for Sacramento State. He was the starting catcher and during his first season, batted .263 (15-of-57) with three doubles and six RBIs.
Sacramento State won the West Regional tournament to go to the College World Series.
The next year, he hit .328 (21-for-64). He had five doubles and a home run and drove in 15 runs.
John Smith, Sacramento State’s coach from 1979 to 2010, remembers Horn being so full of life and energy – energy that he channeled in a direction that was always helping others.
“His mission was to help individuals that had a dream of playing sports and getting a college education,” said Smith. “He did this for not only his own sons, but for countless other young men in his community. His work in the community was off the chart. This is exactly the kind of player and teammate he was as a Hornet, always helping someone excel in their performance as an athlete and player.”
Horn played on two of the very best teams that Smith had during his coaching career. The Hornets played in two West Regional tournaments. They lost to Florida Southern, 5-4, in the College World Series finals.
“His impact on those two teams will always be remembered, but that wasn’t the thing that stood out about Daryl Horn,” said Smith. “His compassion to help others and lead a team that experienced success was an integral part of his legacy.
“As a coach and educator of young men, I always had a goal to influence my players to be outstanding young men, good students and play to the best of their ability. If they achieved these goals, I felt everything else would take care of itself. I also felt I could then send them out into the world prepared to be a successful and productive citizen for their community. Daryl exemplified this goal and then some.
“I have been blessed with so many outstanding young men that I had the pleasure to be associated with throughout the years. However, I am extremely proud of Daryl for the father, husband and the man that he became.
“Our whole Hornet family is in shock and mourning as to the senseless loss of one of our own. He will, forever be missed and I am thankful that he was a part of my life.”
It was earlier this fall when Smith said he spoke with Horn about a fund-raising event at the Veterans Home of California’s Cleve Borman Field in Yountville. It’s the home of the NVBC, a place where Jared Horn pitched and where Daryl Horn coached.
“He was doing what he did best, providing a better environment for young boys to play baseball in,” said Smith. “That is who Daryl Horn was – a leader in every sense of the word.”
Horn was remembered by Ron Ash, Daryl’s roommate and teammate at Sacramento State who was a starting pitcher, as a joy to be around.
“He always had a smile on his face and was the glue that kept our team so close, by his sense of humor and his kind ways,” said Ash. “Daryl was so liked by our whole team. Never complained, was a hard worker, such a humble teammate that was always there for anybody that needed a lift.
“His physical presence as a catcher and a hitter was intimidating. His energy and charisma and witty ways always kept us loose.”
Daryl graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in marketing.
Horn won the Napa Little League city title with Silva Plumbing during Jared Horn’s 12-year-old year.
He managed the Little League teams that Jared and Joe each played on.
He managed the 13U NVBC team this past spring and summer. He was on the coaching staff with Kyle Rasmusen, Mike Jankiewicz and Jeff Wright with other age-group teams.
Daryl Horn was also the manager of the Napa Niners, a traveling baseball team, that played in tournaments around the Bay Area from 2012-2016.
Jake MacNichols, a 2016 Vintage graduate and a sophomore catcher at Santa Clara University, said Horn was like a second father to him and taught him about catching. He was Jared Horn’s catcher for more than five years.
“The Horn family has been a part of my life for so long that they have become a part of my own family,” said MacNichols. “I love all of them so much and know they would do anything for me as I would for them.”
Jake Rasmusen, a 2017 Vintage High graduate, said: “You cannot mention the Horn family without highlighting the selfless attitudes that each member of the family has shown, not only to myself but also the community as a whole.”
Cam Neal, Vintage’s Athletic Director, said Horn never wavered on keeping kids’ best interests as the most important factor in making decisions.
Horn “always found a way to make each kid feel special,” said Neal, adding that he “was a father figure for many of the boys that maybe didn’t have that mentor in their own lives.”
Remembering Joe Horn
Joe Horn played three sports.
He was the starting center for the Saints’ midget division football team this past fall.
“This season, he just really fell in love with football,” said Denise Horn.
He played on three different basketball teams – North Bay Basketball Academy, St. Apollinaris, and Napa Parks and Recreation.
He played seven years of Napa Little League, moving from rookie ball to the majors. He played for the 13U Napa Valley Baseball Club team this past spring and summer.
“Joe was just a joy, such a positive, positive soul,” said Denise Horn. “He was always happy, always in a good mood.”
Joe Horn “had a beautiful mix of his parents’ personalities, an infectious laugh, endearing spirit. Wonderful young man,” said Neal, adding that Horn was an incredibly talented athlete.
Joe Horn was a rising star in three sports, Jared said.
“When I was 14, I definitely was not as good as him – at basketball or baseball or football,” Jared said.
“Joe was a fun-loving kid who loved being around his dad and brother,” said Billy Smith. “Joe was a great teammate, friend and competitor.”
Jacob Ray coached Joe Horn with the Saints and is also on the NVBC board.
“He was a kid that loved baseball and was really starting to love the game of football,” said Ray.
A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 3 at 1:05 p.m. at the Vintage High School gym.
A memorial fund has been created on behalf of Denise Horn at Wells Fargo Bank. The account name is Daryl & Joe Horn Benefit Memorial Fund.
All Wells Fargo Banks will have account information by the name of the account, Daryl & Joe Horn Benefit Memorial.